The saline Interface of a Shallow Unconfined Aquifer, Rangitikei Delta
The coastal communities of Tangimoana and Scott's Ferry have a long history of using shallow groundwater bores. The cumulative effect of pumping over decades could influence the saline interface given the close proximity of the communities to the seashore and river estuary. It is important to quantify the effects of pumping on both the shallow groundwater system and the dynamics of the saline interface. This is necessary to protect the groundwater system against saline intrusion especially given the increasing number of high volume groundwater consents to support dairying. Resistivity soundings and traverses, coupled with chemical analyses of groundwater samples, were found to be an effective method for defining the saline interface of the shallow groundwater aquifer under the Rangitikei delta. The saline interface extends from the salt marsh to beneath the farmland north of Tangimoana. The interface is a zone of diffusion with freshwater and brackish water mixing from the estuary. The interface is currently located on the outskirts of Tangimoana, and it is likely to extend beneath the township. The infiltration of brackish surface waters into sediments of the salt marsh form a surficial mixing zone that decreases with distance from the salt marsh. There is no indication of salinity in the area to the north of the Rangitikei delta. This area is most at risk of contamination from saline intrusion because of high volume groundwater abstractions, even though these abstractions are from deeper aquifers. The shallow groundwater beneath Tangimoana showed high concentrations of Ca and HCO3 ions. This may be a result of carbonate dissolution, which can occur when saline and freshwater mix. This creates groundwater that is under-saturated with calcium. The mixing water dissolves carbonates and increases the concentrations of Ca and HCO3. The major source of sodium and chloride was likely rainwater with evaporated solutes from seawater. The saline interface near Tangimoana appears to be relatively static, but the estuary and salt marsh are areas of low relief. There are preferential flows paths across the salt marsh to the farmland. These factors make the shallow groundwater in the Rangitikei delta vulnerable to saline intrusion.