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Paleo-hydrogeological reconstruction of the fresh-saline groundwater distribution in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta since the late Pleistocene

Study region: Mekong Delta, Vietnam (MKD).
Study focus: Present-day distribution of fresh-saline groundwater is highly heterogeneous in the MKD. Close to the coastline, fresh groundwater is found in aquifers up to 500 m below ground surface. To gain better insight into the fresh-saline groundwater evolution since the late Pleistocene, we simulated long-term groundwater flow and salt transport in a two-dimensional NW-SW cross-section over the MKD. To fully consider the regression and transgression phases of sea-level changes over the past 60 ka, variable-density groundwater flow and salt transport was simulated with SEAWAT to reproduce characteristics of the present-day distribution of freshsaline groundwater and its age. We simulated nine scenarios to evaluate the most important factors controlling freshening and salinization processes of the MKD groundwater system. We compared the fnal model stage with present day observations of groundwater salinity and age. New hydrological insights for the region: The sedimentation and erosion processes, related to sealevel changes over the last 60 ka, were important drivers of the fresh-saline distribution in the
present MKD. The two-dimensional model indicates that most fresh groundwater in the MKD was recharged 60–12 ka before present, when the sea-level was at its lowest and the top sedimentary layers had a relatively high permeability. Due to deposition of a clayey top layer during the Holocene, at present, groundwater recharge of the deeper MKD groundwater system is very limited.

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