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Procedia Environmental Sciences 30 (2015) 291 – 296

International Conference on Environmental Forensics 2015 (iENFORCE2015)

Identification of saltwater intrusion/assessment scheme in

groundwater using the role of empirical knowledge
Noorain Mohd Isaa,b, Ahmad Zaharin Arisa,b*
Environmental Forensics Research Centre, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Malaysia
Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Malaysia


Kapas Island depends solely on groundwater as the major source of freshwater supply for the drinking and domestic purposes.
High consumption of fresh groundwater leads to deterioration of its quality. In order to overcome this issue, a monitoring of
groundwater sampling was conducted. A total of 216 groundwater samples were collected in different monsoon and were tested
for physic-chemical parameters. Pre-monsoon was recorded Na-rich type while post-monsoon was dominated by Ca-rich type.
The level of saline interferences was identified using ionic strength and Cl concentrations where it reveals the fresh to moderate
groundwater condition.

Authors. Published
Published by Elsevier
by Elsevier an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
B.V This
Peer-review under responsibility of organizing committee of Environmental Forensics Research Centre, Faculty of
responsibility of organizing
Universiti committee of Environmental Forensics Research Centre, Faculty of Environmental Studies,
Putra Malaysia.
Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Keywords: small island; ionic strength; Kapas Island; hydrochemistry; groundwater quality

1. Introduction

It has been acknowledged that intensive development activities in small islands specifically in Kapas Island
usually increase the risk of groundwater quality degradation through over-exploitation of fresh groundwater [1]. The
uncontrolled of groundwater extraction leads to modification of natural flow system and induces contamination of
seawater from the coast [2]. Seawater disturbance could alter the groundwater compositions that are subjects to

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +6-03-8945-7455; fax: +6-03-8943-8109

E-mail address:

1878-0296 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
Peer-review under responsibility of organizing committee of Environmental Forensics Research Centre, Faculty of Environmental Studies,
Universiti Putra Malaysia.
292 Noorain Mohd Isa and Ahmad Zaharin Aris / Procedia Environmental Sciences 30 (2015) 291 – 296

water-rock interaction and chemical reactions [3]. The Kapas Island aquifer is a shallow aquifer which is more
sensitive to deteriorate. In addition, temporal and spatial changes have to be considered because its affects the
recharge and discharge of groundwater. This therefore requires a fundamental understanding on the spatial and
temporal variability of groundwater hydrochemistry as to identify the controlling factors for groundwater
constituents [4]. The principal aims of this study are to characterize the groundwater hydrochemistry in different
monsoon seasons and to determine the extents of saltwater intrusion in Kapas Island aquifer based on the ionic
strength of selected ions.

2. Methods

2.1. Study site

Present study was done in Kapas Island which is located at 5° 13.140 'N, 103° 15.894 'E, with an area about 2
km² [5]. It is situated in the tropical region with average annual rainfall of 1000 mm and experiences constant
temperature at 30 °C. The monitoring boreholes were scattered in low-lying coastal area which frequently
experience pumping activities. Fig. 1 shows the location of the monitoring boreholes at Kapas Island. A total of 216
groundwater samples were collected based on spatial (six monitoring boreholes) and temporal scales (pre- and post-
monsoon). The dry season is pronounced as pre-monsoon, given that the highest water demand usually coincides
with the drought season while post-monsoon related to wet season where the aquifer is being recharged by
precipitation (rainfall).

Kapas Island


A’ B’


5.1300 KW 1
KW 2
KW 3
5.1299 KW 4
KW 5
KW 6

103.1575 103.1576 103.1577 103.1578 103.1579 103.1580 103.1581

Fig. 1. The location of the monitoring boreholes at Kapas Island

Noorain Mohd Isa and Ahmad Zaharin Aris / Procedia Environmental Sciences 30 (2015) 291 – 296 293

The groundwater samples were tested for physicochemical parameters. In-situ parameters, namely temperature,
DO, pH, Eh, TDS, EC and salinity as well as the anions variables of HCO3, Cl and SO4 were tested on-site as to
collect a representative data. Groundwater samples for cation measurements (Ca, Mg, Na, K) were filtered and
stored in a cool box for transportation to the designated laboratory in Faculty of Environmental Studies, UPM.
The quality control and quality assurance of the sampling methods including calibration of probes and
instruments were scrutinized in order to obtain minimize or zero error in data collection.

2.2. Data analyses

Simple statistical analyses of descriptive analysis and correlation coefficient were calculated to gather meaningful
information from a large dataset. These analyses were done using PASW Statistics 18 software. The inferential
statistics can make judgments of the probability that the difference between groups is a dependable one or
independent of each other. The data collected from this study were simplified in a graphical of bar chart and piper
diagram as to illustrate the differences which can explains the evolution of groundwater hydrochemistry between
seasons. For this study, the ionic strength for the selected minerals was calculated to gain a better understanding of
the hydrochemical processes that take place in the aquifer during the mixing of freshwater and seawater. PHREEQC
software was used to set up the hydrogeochemical components of the groundwater, especially the ionic strength.

3. Results and discussion

Most hydrochemical parameters showed very wide ranges of concentrations and shows significant correlation
between seasons. In particular, pre-monsoon were controlled by Na and Cl which recognized as seawater elements
while post-monsoon dominated by Ca and Mg which describes the contribution of mineral elements. The
correlations of each ion are shown in Table 1. Fig. 2 shows the high concentration of Na and Cl during pre-monsoon
while increasing of Ca and Mg during post-monsoon. The ion domination were explains by the groundwater type.
As pre-monsoon has higher Na concentrations, Na-HCO3 type was dominant. The groundwater showed paths of
hydrochemical evolution, from Na to Ca-rich during post-monsoon as the Ca-HCO3 type take place. These patterns
indicate that the groundwater chemistry is experiences changes by the cation exchanges reaction and simple mixing
process (Fig. 3).


Concentration (mg/L)



Major ions
Pre-monsoon Post-monsoon

Fig. 2. The concentration of major ions for the two different monsoon seasons
294 Noorain Mohd Isa and Ahmad Zaharin Aris / Procedia Environmental Sciences 30 (2015) 291 – 296

Fig. 3. The changes of groundwater type in Kapas Island aquifer during two different monsoon seasons

The impact of ongoing salinization found during pre-monsoon can be evaluated by the ionic strength variation in
the groundwater. Fig. 4 shows the water type classification based on ionic strength and Cl concentrations. The Cl
was chosen because it is the most abundant ion in seawater along with good relationship between other major ions
(p<0.01; Table 1). The scheme of ionic strength plotted against Cl on log-log scales produce of five major classes;
AA (fresh), BB (slightly fresh), CC (moderate), DD (slightly saline) and EE (saline). Apart from these, there are
other minor groups involved; e.g. AB (fresh-slightly fresh), BC (slightly fresh-moderate), CD (moderate-slightly
saline) and DE (slightly saline-saline).
Samples with circle shape represent data for pre-monsoon, scattered diversely in group A, group B and some in
group C. From here, it can be concluded that samples in pre-monsoon were under fresh to moderate type. Differ
from post-monsoon, samples in triangle (represent post-monsoon) were concentrated in group A but with higher I
values because of increasing other elements such as Ca and Mg.
Noorain Mohd Isa and Ahmad Zaharin Aris / Procedia Environmental Sciences 30 (2015) 291 – 296 295

1.000 A B C E


slightly fresh


slightly saline

Ionic strength (I)


saline slightly moderate slightly fresh




0.010 B


1 10 100 1000 10000
Cl (mg/L)
KW 1 KW 2 KW 3 KW 4 KW 5 KW 6 Pre-monsoon
KW 1 KW 2 KW 3 KW 4 KW 5 KW 6 Post-monsoon

Fig. 4. Assessment scheme for seawater intrusion based on ionic strength (I) against Cl concentration

Table 1 Correlation analyses of major ions (n = 216)

Ca Mg Na K HCO₃ Cl SO₄
Ca 1 0.545** -0.292** -0.357** -0.223** -0.346** -0.218**
Mg 1 0.030 0.013 -0.005 -0.064 -0.071
Na 1 0.320** 0.433** 0.915** 0.466**
K 1 0.513** 0.363** -0.024
HCO₃ 1 0.518** 0.193**
Cl 1 0.406**
SO₄ 1
-Upper triangle; p<0.01**, p<0.05*

4. Conclusion

The major groundwater type in Kapas Island was Na-HCO3 and Ca-HCO3. Each water type is defined by the
concentration of ions in the groundwater. The scheme to assess the extent of seawater intrusion has been proposed
using the chart of ionic strength (I) variation against Cl concentrations. Pre-monsoon recorded to have fresh to
moderate types of water while post-monsoon solely have fresh water type. Although it shows a significant
contribution of saltwater intrusion, groundwater in Kapas Island was only slightly affected. The significant of
296 Noorain Mohd Isa and Ahmad Zaharin Aris / Procedia Environmental Sciences 30 (2015) 291 – 296

salinization in groundwater is attributed from the other chemical mechanism, such as cation exchanges process and
simple mixing process as the values of contamination was too small (Cl concentration < 150 mg/L).


This study was supported by the Exploratory Research Grant Scheme (ERGS) Project No:
ERGS/1/2013/STWN01/UPM/02/2. Allowance and scholarship from Universiti Putra Malaysia is gratefully
acknowledged. Special thanks to the Faculty of Engineering and Nuclear Agency Malaysia for the valuable help in
the completing this research.


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