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11/09/2007

Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water, As Rising Sea Penetrates Coastal Aquifers

Image: Galveston Beach, Texas, Gulf of Mexico. In the United States, lands along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico -- especially Florida and Louisiana -- are most likely to be flooded as sea levels rise. (Credit: iStockphoto/Sergey Kubyshin)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2007)
— As sea levels rise, coastal communities could lose up to 50 percent more of their fresh water supplies than previously thought, according to a new study from Ohio State University.

Hydrologists here have simulated how saltwater will intrude into fresh water aquifers, given the sea level rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC has concluded that within the next 100 years, sea level could rise as much as 23 inches, flooding coasts worldwide.

Scientists previously assumed that, as saltwater moved inland, it would penetrate underground only as far as it did above ground.

But this new research shows that when saltwater and fresh water meet, they mix in complex ways, depending on the texture of the sand along the coastline. In some cases, a zone of mixed, or brackish, water can extend 50 percent further inland underground than it does above ground.

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