In addition to variable density flow, the lateral and vertical heterogeneity of submarine sediments creates important controls on coastal aquifer systems. Submarine confining units produce semi-confined offshore aquifers that are recharged on shore. These low-permeability deposits are usually either late Pleistocene to Holocene in age, or date to the period of the last interglacial highstand. Extensive confining units consisting of peat form in tropical mangrove swamps, and in salt marshes and freshwater marshes and swamps at mid-latitudes. At higher latitudes, fine-grained glaciomarine sediments are widespread. The net effect of these shallow confining units is that groundwater from land often flows farther offshore before discharging than would normally be expected. In many settings, the presence of such confining units is critical to determining how and where pollutants from land will be discharged into coastal waters. Alternatively, these confining units may also protect fresh groundwater supplies from saltwater intrusion into coastal wells.
Additional publication details
The importance of shallow confining units to submarine groundwater flow
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Larger Work Title:
International Symposium: A New Focus on Groundwater - Seawater Interactions - 24th General Assembly of the In