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Regional Risk Assessment for climate change impacts on coastal aquifers

Iyalomhe, F., Rizzi, J., Pasini, S., Torresan, S., Critto, A., Marcomini, A.
The Science of the total environment 2015 v.537 pp. 100-114
agricultural land, aquifers, autumn, climate, climate change, coasts, environmental assessment, forests, geographic information systems, groundwater, humans, lakes, mathematical models, multi-criteria decision making, receptors, risk, risk assessment, rivers, saltwater intrusion, socioeconomics, spatial data, spring, summer, water quantity, water table, watersheds, wells, winter, Italy
Coastal aquifers have been identified as particularly vulnerable to impacts on water quantity and quality due to the high density of socio-economic activities and human assets in coastal regions and to the projected rising sea levels, contributing to the process of saltwater intrusion. This paper proposes a Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) methodology integrated with a chain of numerical models to evaluate potential climate change-related impacts on coastal aquifers and linked natural and human systems (i.e., wells, river, agricultural areas, lakes, forests and semi-natural environments). The RRA methodology employs Multi Criteria Decision Analysis methods and Geographic Information Systems functionalities to integrate heterogeneous spatial data on hazard, susceptibility and risk for saltwater intrusion and groundwater level variation.The proposed approach was applied on the Esino River basin (Italy) using future climate hazard scenarios based on a chain of climate, hydrological, hydraulic and groundwater system models running at different spatial scales. Models were forced with the IPCC SRES A1B emission scenario for the period 2071–2100 over four seasons (i.e., winter, spring, summer and autumn).Results indicate that in future seasons, climate change will cause few impacts on the lower Esino River valley. Groundwater level decrease will have limited effects: agricultural areas, forests and semi-natural environments will be at risk only in a region close to the coastline which covers less than 5% of the total surface of the considered receptors; less than 3.5% of the wells will be exposed in the worst scenario. Saltwater intrusion impact in future scenarios will be restricted to a narrow region close to the coastline (only few hundred meters), and thus it is expected to have very limited effects on the Esino coastal aquifer with no consequences on the considered natural and human systems.