Mitigating groundwater salinity impacts for improved water security in coastal areas under socio-economic and climate change

  • Partners: Eduardo Mondlane Univ (UEM), ARA-Sul, FIPAG, VEI, HoChiMinh City Univ VietNam (HCMUT), DWRPIS VietNam, Tianjin Center (ARP), Weifang govt (
  • Donor: Stichting IHE
  • Donor Programme: DGIS - UNESCO-IHE Programmatic Cooperation

Water and food security are among the most important pillars supporting socio-economic development of the southern countries, particularly in response to climate and global change. In many of these countries improving water security cannot be done without enhancing the knowledge on one of the most abundant but at the same time poorly understood water sources, namely groundwater. Our research aims to address the most widespread problem linked to groundwater exploitation in heavily populated coastal aquifers, namely that of saltwater intrusion. Uncontrolled exploration of such groundwater bodies by large water users leads to groundwater quality problems that directly affect domestic supply and crop productivity. Our approach is to work together with key stakeholders and water users in three different settings: Peri-urban Great Maputo (Mozambique), Tra Vinh province in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) and Laizhou Bay (China, self-funded), towards understanding the dimension and environmental, social and economic impacts of the existing groundwater salinization problems, and developing feasible solutions, both in the present situation and under future climate and socio-economic change. For this purpose monitoring tools and networks will be evaluated and optimised, models of groundwater flow and salt transport will be developed, recharge/demand ratios and salinity-yield relations will be studied in detail within the local contexts, and model predictions will be made based on water availability, demand and management scenarios. Mitigation and adaptation measures, such as optimized pumping practices and well locations, managed aquifer recharge, and alternative land uses (e.g. salt-tolerant crops, aquaculture), will be co-designed with local stakeholders. Their technical, social and economic feasibility will be evaluated, thereby comparing results and exchanging experiences between the three case studies. Project outcomes are expected to have major impacts through shifts towards more sustainable pumping practices of the coastal aquifers, optimized participatory groundwater salinity monitoring, information-based groundwater resources management, and facilitated adoption of measures that through their implementation will contribute to improving water security and related socio-economic conditions.