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Ground-penetrating radar insight into a coastal aquifer: the freshwater lens of Borkum Island

2013, Igel, J., Günther, T., Kuntzer, M.

Freshwater lenses, as important resource for drinking water, are sensitive to climate changes and sea level rise. To simulate this impact on the groundwater systems, hydraulic subsurface models have to be designed. Geophysical techniques can provide information for generating realistic models. The aim of our work is to show how ground-penetrating radar (GPR) investigations can contribute to such hydrological simulations. In the pilot area, Borkum island, GPR was used to map the shape of the groundwater table (GWT) and to characterise the aquifer. In total, 20 km of constant offset (CO) profiles were measured with centre frequencies of 80 and 200 MHz. Wave velocities were determined by common midpoint (CMP) measurements and vertical radar profiling (VRP) in a monitoring well. The 80 MHz CO data show a clear reflection at the groundwater table, whereas the reflection is weaker for the 200 MHz data. After correcting the GPR water tables for the capillary rise, they are in good accordance with the pressure heads of the observation wells in the area. In the centre of the island, the groundwater table is found up to 3.5 m above sea level, however it is lower towards the coastline and marshland. Some local depressions are observed in the region of dune valleys and around pumping stations of the local water supplier. GPR also reveals details within the sediments and highly-permeable aeolian sands can be distinguished from less-permeable marine sediments. Further, a silt loam layer below the water table could be mapped on a large area. The reflection characteristics indicates scattered erosion channels in this layer that cause it to be an aquitard with some leakage. GPR provides a high resolution map of the groundwater table and insight into the stratigraphy of the sediments and their hydraulic properties. This is valuable complementary information to the observation of sparsely distributed monitoring wells as input to hydraulic simulation.

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Numerical modelling of climate change impacts on freshwater lenses on the North Sea Island of Borkum using hydrological and geophysical methods

2012, Sulzbacher, H., Wiederhold, H., Siemon, B., Grinat, M., Igel, J., Burschil, T., Günther, T., Hinsby, K.

A numerical, density dependent groundwater model is set up for the North Sea Island of Borkum to estimate climate change impacts on coastal aquifers and especially the situation of barrier islands in the Wadden Sea. The database includes information from boreholes, a seismic survey, a helicopter-borne electromagnetic (HEM) survey, monitoring of the freshwater-saltwater boundary by vertical electrode chains in two boreholes, measurements of groundwater table, pumping and slug tests, as well as water samples. Based on a statistical analysis of borehole columns, seismic sections and HEM, a hydrogeological model is set up. The groundwater model is developed using the finite-element programme FEFLOW. The density dependent groundwater model is calibrated on the basis of hydraulic, hydrological and geophysical data, in particular spatial HEM and local monitoring data. Verification runs with the calibrated model show good agreement between measured and computed hydraulic heads. A good agreement is also obtained between measured and computed density or total dissolved solids data for both the entire freshwater lens on a large scale and in the area of the well fields on a small scale. For simulating future changes in this coastal groundwater system until the end of the current century, we use the climate scenario A2, specified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and, in particular, the data for the German North Sea coast. Simulation runs show proceeding salinisation with time beneath the well fields of the two waterworks Waterdelle and Ostland. The modelling study shows that the spreading of well fields is an appropriate protection measure against excessive salinisation of the water supply until the end of the current century.