EGU21-15003, updated on 09 Jan 2023
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

An over-used ocean island coastal aquifer, Tenerife (Spain) – tracing inputs for improved resource management

Beverley Coldwell1,2, María Cordero1, Nemesio M. Pérez1,2, Cecilia Amonte1,2, María Asensio-Ramos1, Gladys Melián1,2, and Eleazar Padrón1,2
Beverley Coldwell et al.
  • 1Instituto Volcanológico de Canarias (INVOLCAN), San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Tenerife Spain
  • 2Instituto Tecnológico y de Energías Renovables (ITER), Granadilla de Abona, Tenerife, Spain

The island of Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) relies on basalt-hosted aquifers to provide 90% of water for agriculture and human consumption. The island is characterised by a low-permeability core, overlain by permeable materials which are cut by impermeable dykes. The effect is a compartmentalised aquifer, which is exploited sequentially as each “pocket” of water is exhausted. The island is home to ~1 million people (with an additional 5 million visiting tourists per year), and although rain/snowfall can be heavy in winter storms, it is unpredictable from year to year, and rapid surface water run off occurs due to the steep geography. While net recharge into the upper zones of the Tenerife aquifer have been quantified (around 2 months between intense rainfall and water table fluctuations), water must then follow a tortuous path to recharge lower zones and aquifer “pockets”. Water recharge to the coastal aquifers is also interrupted and extracted during its journey. Human and agricultural pressure is highest near the coast, and has led to intensive exploitation of existing wells and horizontal galleries. In response to the intensification of water extraction and slow recharge rates, marine intrusions into the coastal aquifers of Tenerife have occurred, traditionally recorded by rising chloride levels and resulting in well/gallery closures as well as increased pressure on other extraction sites. However, in a volcanic ocean island setting, natural processes can mimic the appearance of salinisation in a coastal aquifer. Management of aquifer resources require careful consideration of seawater incursions vs. volcanic degassing contributions vs. ocean island rainfall. Full hydrochemical breakdown of 43 coastal aquifer extraction sites reveal seawater intrusion is affecting the western coastal aquifer, with the agreement of multiple parameters. The strontium isotopic signature of well samples was also measured, because it is not subject to the biological or physical fractionation processes of other isotopic systems, thereby forming distinct reservoirs for groundwater (87Sr/86Sr of host rock), and seawater. 87Sr/86Sr signatures suggest the northern coastal aquifers are also subject to seawater incursions. This parameter may be a more sensitive indicator than chlorides and conductivity markers for salinisation, especially in an ocean island environment where coastal aquifers are subject to intensive land use practices, seawater spray, and affected by diffuse volcanic degassing.

How to cite: Coldwell, B., Cordero, M., Pérez, N. M., Amonte, C., Asensio-Ramos, M., Melián, G., and Padrón, E.: An over-used ocean island coastal aquifer, Tenerife (Spain) – tracing inputs for improved resource management, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15003,, 2021.


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