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Saltwater intrusion

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
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Assessment made on  01 Oct 2003

Generic metadata


Water Water (Primary theme)

water | salinisation | irrigation | abstraction | groundwater
DPSIR: Impact


Indicator codes
  • WQ 03b
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Are the impacts of water abstractions being reduced?

Key messages

  • Saltwater intrusion as a result of increasing groundwater over-exploitation is a major concern in many coastal aquifers throughout Europe


Key assessment

Groundwater over-exploitation occurs when groundwater abstraction exceeds recharge and leads to a lowering of the groundwater table. The rapid expansion in groundwater abstraction over the past 30 to 40 years has supported new agricultural and socioeconomic development in regions where alternative surface water resources are insufficient, uncertain or too costly (EC, 2000). Over-abstraction leads to groundwater depletion, loss of habitats and deteriorating water quality. It is a significant problem in many European countries. One of its impacts is the intrusion of saltwater into aquifers.

In nine of 11 countries where coastal overexploitation was reported to exist, saltwater intrusion is the consequence.

Large areas of the Mediterranean coastline in Italy, Spain and Turkey have been reported to be affected by saltwater intrusion. The main cause is groundwater over-abstraction for public water supply.

Irrigation is the main cause of groundwater over-exploitation in agricultural areas. Some examples are the Greek Argolid plain of the eastern Peloponnesos, where it is common to find boreholes 400 m deep contaminated by saltwater intrusion.

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