Freshening of a Coastal Karst Aquifer Revealed by the Temporal Changes in a Spring Water Composition (La Palme, Southern France) uri icon


  • Coastal karst aquifers are vulnerable to sea level rise and seawater intrusion. Knowledge of aquifer hydrological characteristics is therefore essential to managing this water resource. Long-term aquifer monitoring may not always be possible, especially in areas that humans frequent for recreational purposes. However, hydrological information can be deduced from the chemical composition of periodically sampled groundwaters. We characterized the complete chemical composition (temperature, pH, salinity, ORP, O2, Na-K-Ca-Mg-Ba-Sr-Si-Cl-SO4-DIC, and DOC) of a brackish karstic spring located along the French Mediterranean coast (La Palme). The salinity of the spring water varied between 4 and 9 during the 2.5 year period of observation. Chemical analyses revealed that the spring is modified from modern seawater, as shown by Na-normalized dissolved element concentrations. Thermodynamic calculations of mineral saturation states (PHREEQC) point to aragonite and barite saturation and elevated equilibrium CO2 partial pressure. The simultaneous salinity minima and oxygen maxima coincide with extreme values of dissolved element concentrations. This indicates that variation in salinity and water chemistry in La Palme coastal aquifer is primarily driven by infiltration of fresh rainwater. This study shows that geochemical investigations can provide an alternative approach to characterizing the hydrological properties of coastal karst aquifers when wells or boreholes are not readily available.