Saltwater intrusion (SWI) is a global coastal problem caused by aquifer overpumping, land-use change, and climate change impacts. Given the complex pathways that lead to SWI, coastal urban areas with poorly monitored aquifers are in need of probabilistic-based decision support tools that can assist in better understanding and predicting SWI, while exploring effective means for sustainable aquifer management. In this study, we develop a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) to account for the complex interactions of climatic and anthropogenic processes leading to SWI, while relating the severity of SWI to associated socioeconomic impacts and possible adaptation strategies. The BBN is further expanded into a Dynamic Bayesian Network (DBN) to assess the temporal progression of SWI and account for the compounding uncertainties over time. The proposed DBN is then tested at a pilot coastal aquifer underlying a highly urbanized water-stressed metropolitan area along the Eastern Mediterranean coastline (Beirut, Lebanon). The results show that the future impacts of climate change are largely secondary when compared to the persistent water deficits. While both supply and demand management could halt the progression of salinity, the potential for reducing or reversing SWI is not evident. The indirect socioeconomic burden associated with aquifer salinity was observed to improve, albeit heterogeneously, with the application of various adaptation strategies; however, this was at a cost associated with the implementation and operation of these strategies. The proposed DBN acts as an effective decision support tool that can promote sustainable aquifer management in coastal regions through its robust representation of the main drivers of SWI and linking them to expected socioeconomic burdens and management options. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2021;17:202-220. © 2020 SETAC.
Keywords: Adaptation; Aquifer management; Bayesian network; Decision models; Saltwater intrusion.
© 2020 SETAC.