Silent salty invader

The most appalling quality of water is its strength – Scottish poet Nan Shepherd.

EXO2 multiparameter sonde from Xylem.

In Thailand, more than 10% of its roughly 70 million citizens live in areas that are projected to be underwater by 2050. Based on the direst projections by the New Jersey-based Climate Central, in less than 30 years, Asian megacities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Mumbai and Bangkok could be completely inundated by rising sea levels; pushing hundreds of millions of citizens to migrate further inland away from the high tide line.

These low-lying cities are already feeling the effects of rising sea levels, land subsidence (due to chronic groundwater extraction), and extreme climate-related weather and drought. Jakarta’s situation has proven so alarming that their parliament has recently approved a US$32.5 billion bill to relocate the country’s capital to a more climate benign location in Kalimantan, where it will be renamed Nusantara.

In other countries, these alarming projections are driving governments to accelerate their coastal resilience strategies in anticipation of this impending existential threat. Unfortunately, the threat is already a reality for many around the world, as the sea advances inland and inundates surface and groundwater networks, otherwise known as saltwater intrusion (SI).

Water managers worldwide consider SI to be the biggest untold water story around the globe; labelling it a “silent problem” because it has been easier to ignore politically, compared to other climate change issues, and has avoided, for the most part, the big media radar. On the other hand, for local farmers, burying their heads in the sand hasn’t been an option, as their crops such as rice, durian, prawns have declined in yield due to the silent salty intruder.

Greg Weiss is South East Asia business development manager for Xylem (Analytics).

The full article is available on the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia Mar/Apr 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.