In the coming decades, changes in sea level, precipitation, and populations are likely to impact groundwater resources, particularly in coastal areas where salinization by seawater already threatens aquifer systems. Understanding the primary factors that affect aquifer vulnerability to changes in salinity and groundwater flow patterns is critical to developing effective management plans in coastal zones. This presentation identifies important salinization mechanisms and presents recent work to characterize aquifer system vulnerability. The case of the Bengal Delta, one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to sea-level rise due to its low topographic elevation and dense population, is considered, and generalized to include other types of hydrogeologic systems.
Holly Michael is a Professor in the Departments of Earth Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware and the Unidel Fraser Russell Chair for the Environment. She is also Associate Director for Interdisciplinary Initiatives for the Delaware Environmental Institute. She holds a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD in Hydrology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research interests include water resource management, coastal hydrogeology, groundwater-surface water interactions, and geostatistics. Some of her current projects include investigating groundwater flow into estuaries, modeling groundwater salinization due to climate change, evaluating sustainability of arsenic-safe groundwater in Bangladesh, and application of experimental economics to groundwater resources.