A saltwater intrusion is the movement of water with a high saline content into freshwater sources. Read on to learn how this phenomena impacts well owners.

Why Does Saltwater Intrusion Happen?

Saltwater intrusion can be a natural phenomenon in coastal or low-lying areas such as those found in Florida. Sometimes the intrusion is limited to one well, or sometimes it impacts multiple wells.  Left untreated, saltwater intrusion can make the water undrinkable. It also causes medical complications, damages the fertility of the soil, and corrodes the infrastructure of your well system.  In some cases, the intrusion may be so severe that the damage to the freshwater is permanent.

How Does It Work?

Saltwater intrusion primarily occurs when water with a high saline count pushes inland. When this happens, it slips underneath freshwater due to its high mineral content and density.  Due to the extraction of freshwater supplies, the lack of pressure allows the saltwater to flow unfettered inland.  Florida is particularly vulnerable to saltwater intrusion. Agricultural irrigation and drainage canals allow for additional passages for saltwater to encroach.  Additionally, sea level rise and storm surges due to inclement weather are also factors in intrusion.

Preventing Saltwater Intrusion

There are many steps you can take to mitigate your risk to saltwater intrusion.

Conservation

By reducing the use of your freshwater resources, you are helping to ensure that an adequate supply of freshwater is available to provide pressure to stop the saline water from flowing inward. Some steps you can take are using appliances that use less water and utilizing landscaping options that are natural to your environment.

Pump Depth

By reducing the depth of your pump, you are less likely to draw up saline water that may be present.

Multi-Pumping

If you have multiple wells, pump at different time periods so as not to create a sudden reduction of freshwater sources.

Water Storage

Increase above ground water storage through cisterns or tanks. During the rainy season, make use of rain barrels to collect water.  When storing water, you will have to ensure that the water is disinfected and not contaminated.

Regular Maintenance

Conducting regular maintenance on your well will prevent leaks which can lead to over pumping thus making your freshwater susceptible to saltwater intrusion.

Sometimes You Can’t Prevent It

Although you may be able to mitigate the likelihood of saltwater intrusion into your private well, there is no guaranteed protection.  Unfortunately, even with regular maintenance, conservation, and treatment on your part, if other well pumping from the same freshwater source are not utilizing the same efforts, then your well may still be at risk.  Additionally, if natural weather phenomenon such as a hurricane or multiple hurricanes hit your region in a short period of time, the seawater surges and flooding caused by the weather can overpower the freshwater sources by pushing an excessive amount of saltwater into the aquifer.  If you feel that your well has been compromised due to saltwater intrusion, you should contact a licensed professional driller as soon as possible so they might be able to best advise you on your course of action.