Saltwater contamination in the managed low-lying farmland of the Venice coast, Italy: An assessment of vulnerability
The original morphology and hydrogeology of many low-lying coastlands worldwide have been significantly modified over the last century through river diversion, embankment built-up, and large-scale land reclamation projects. This led to a progressive shifting of the groundwater–surficial water exchanges from naturally to anthropogenically driven. In this human-influenced hydrologic landscape, the saltwater contamination usually jeopardizes the soil productivity. In the coastland south of Venice (Italy), several well log measurements, chemical and isotope analyses have been performed over the last decade to characterize the occurrence of the salt contamination. The processing of this huge dataset highlights a permanent variously-shaped saline contamination up to 20km inland, with different conditions in relation with the various geomorphological features of the area. The results point out the important role of the land reclamation in shaping the present-day salt contamination and reveal the contribution of precipitation, river discharge, lagoon and sea water to the shallow groundwater in the various coastal sectors. Moreover, an original vulnerability map to salt contamination in relation to the farmland productivity has been developed taking into account the electrical conductivity of the upper aquifer in the worst condition, the ground elevation, and the distance from salt and fresh surface water sources. Finally, the study allows highlighting the limit of traditional investigations in monitoring saltwater contamination at the regional scale in managed Holocene coastal environments. Possible improvements are outlined.