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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 09 Sep 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Time-lapse cross-hole electrical resistivity tomography (CHERT) for monitoring seawater intrusion dynamics in a Mediterranean aquifer

Andrea Palacios1,2,3, Juan José Ledo4, Niklas Linde5, Linda Luquot6, Fabian Bellmunt4, Albert Folch2,3, Alex Marcuello4, Pilar Queralt4, Philippe A. Pezard7, Laura Martínez1,3, David Bosch4, and Jesús Carrera1,3 Andrea Palacios et al.
  • 1Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Barcelona, 08034, Spain
  • 2Department of Geotechnical Engineering and Geosciences, Technical University of Catalonia (UPC-BarcelonaTech), Barcelona, 08034, Spain
  • 3Associated Unit: Hydrogeology Group (UPC-CSIC)
  • 4Geomodels Research Institute, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, 08028, Spain
  • 5Environmental Geophysics Group, Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, 1015, Switzerland
  • 6HydroScience Montpellier Laboratory, UMR 5569, Montpellier, 34090, France
  • 7Geosciences Montpellier Laboratory, UMR 5243, Montpellier, 34090, France

Abstract. Surface electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) is a widely used tool to study seawater intrusion (SWI). It is noninvasive and offers a high spatial coverage at a low cost, but it is strongly affected by decreasing resolution with depth. We conjecture that the use of CHERT (cross-hole ERT) can partly overcome these resolution limitations since the electrodes are placed at depth, which implies that the model resolution does not decrease in the zone of interest. The objective of this study is to evaluate the CHERT for imaging the SWI and monitoring its dynamics at the Argentona site, a well-instrumented field site of a coastal alluvial aquifer located 40 km NE of Barcelona. To do so, we installed permanent electrodes around boreholes attached to the PVC pipes to perform time-lapse monitoring of the SWI on a transect perpendicular to the coastline. After two years of monitoring, we observe variability of SWI at different time scales: (1) natural seasonal variations and aquifer salinization that we attribute to long-term drought and (2) short-term fluctuations due to sea storms or flooding in the nearby stream during heavy rain events. The spatial imaging of bulk electrical conductivity allows us to explain non-trivial salinity profiles in open boreholes (step-wise profiles really reflect the presence of fresh water at depth). By comparing CHERT results with traditional in situ measurements such as electrical conductivity of water samples and bulk electrical conductivity from induction logs, we conclude that CHERT is a reliable and cost-effective imaging tool for monitoring SWI dynamics.

Andrea Palacios et al.
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Andrea Palacios et al.
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Short summary
Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) is a widely used tool to study seawater intrusion because it is a proxy measurement for water salinity. Our work presents a first example of a long term time-lapse monitoring experiment using cross-hole ERT with electrodes placed in depth, around the boreholes. CHERT results show aquifer variability at different time scales, and provide a positive outlook for their use in solving quantitative problems such as the estimation of aquifer parameters.
Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) is a widely used tool to study seawater intrusion...