Articles | Volume 373
12 May 2016
 | 12 May 2016

Managing saltwater intrusion in coastal arid regions and its societal implications for agriculture

Jens Grundmann, Ayisha Al-Khatri, and Niels Schütze

Abstract. Coastal aquifers in arid and semiarid regions are particularly at risk due to intrusion of salty marine water. Since groundwater is predominantly used in irrigated agriculture, its excessive pumping – above the natural rate of replenishment – strengthen the intrusion process. Using this increasingly saline water for irrigation, leads to a destruction of valuable agricultural resources and the economic basis of farmers and their communities. The limitation of resources (water and soil) in these regions requires a societal adaptation and change in behaviour as well as the development of appropriate management strategies for a transition towards stable and sustainable future hydrosystem states. Besides a description of the system dynamics and the spatial consequences of adaptation on the resources availability, the contribution combines results of an empirical survey with stakeholders and physically based modelling of the groundwater-agriculture hydrosystem interactions. This includes an analysis of stakeholders' (farmers and decision makers) behaviour and opinions regarding several management interventions aiming on water demand and water resources management as well as the thinking of decision makers how farmers will behave. In this context, the technical counter measures to manage the saltwater intrusion by simulating different groundwater pumping strategies and scenarios are evaluated from the economic and social point of view and if the spatial variability of the aquifer's hydrogeology is taken into consideration. The study is exemplarily investigated for the south Batinah region in the Sultanate of Oman, which is affected by saltwater intrusion into a coastal aquifer system due to excessive groundwater withdrawal for irrigated agriculture.