Combined geophysical and analytical methods to estimate offshore freshwater extent

Andrew C. Knight, Adrian D. Werner, Dylan J. Irvine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Offshore fresh groundwater is increasingly suggested as a potential water resource for onshore human demands. In many cases, onshore pumping already draws significant fresh groundwater from offshore. However, offshore aquifers and the extent of offshore freshwater are usually poorly characterised due to data scarcity. This study combines geophysical data, hydraulic information and a first-order mathematical analysis to investigate offshore freshwater extent in the Gambier Embayment (Australia). A large seismic data set, combined with onshore and offshore bore-log geological profiles, are used to explore the regional offshore hydro-stratigraphy. Aquifer hydraulic parameters and onshore heads are obtained from onshore investigations. A novel application of Archie's law, geophysical data and onshore hydrochemical data provide useful insights into the salinity profiles within four offshore wells. These are compared to steady-state, sharp-interface estimates of the freshwater extent obtained from a recently developed analytical solution, albeit using simplified conceptual models. Salinities derived from resistivity measurements indicate that in the south of the study area, pore water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 2.2 g L−1 is found up to 13.2 km offshore. Offshore pore-water salinities are more saline in the northern areas, most likely due to thinning of the offshore confining unit. The analytical solution produced freshwater-saltwater interface locations that were approximately consistent with the freshwater-saltwater stratification in two of the offshore wells, although analytical uncertainty is high. This investigation provides a leading example of offshore freshwater evaluation applying multiple techniques, demonstrating both the benefit and uncertainty of geophysical interpretation and analytical solutions of freshwater extent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-540
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


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