The 2023 edition is dedicated to coastal aquifers – an invaluable freshwater resource hidden beneath our coast.
Why are coastal aquifers and groundwater so important they were chosen to be our main focus for this years’ celebration?
The Mediterranean’s coastal population faces a pressing issue with freshwater resources. Coastal aquifers serve as the primary freshwater source for drinking, agriculture, and industries so they are crucial in responding to the increasing demand. However, these invisible key resources face numerous challenges such as growing pressure on groundwater supplies, saltwater intrusion, coastal aquifer salinization, and nutrient and contaminant transport.
DID YOU KNOW?
Coastal aquifers support unique and diverse ecosystems – wetlands, estuaries, lagoons, humid zones and other coastal habitats which are vital for many plant and animal species. Some of these ecosystems are partially or entirely dependent on groundwater regimes.
Seawater intrusion occurs when seawater enters freshwater aquifers due to natural processes or human activities. It affects water quality and groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Coastal aquifers, acting as a natural barrier by sustaining shallow marine water quality and ecosystems, play a major role in reducing the impacts of saltwater intrusion which renders freshwater resources unsuitable for consumption or irrigation. In addition, submarine groundwater discharges into the sea, containing an excess of nutrients (like nitrates and phosphates) are a serious concern since they can lead to algal blooms and eutrophication, affecting living marine ecosystems, and human health as a chain reaction.
Coastal aquifers are crucial for climate change adaptation, particularly in mitigating the impacts of rising sea levels and changing precipitation patterns. As global temperatures and sea levels rise, coastal aquifers help protect coastal communities and ecosystems by acting as natural buffers and serving as natural freshwater storage systems.