Sri Lankas coastal drinking water supply continues to suffer the effects of the December 2004 tsunami, which caused major death and destruction in the region. Much of the island nations coastal area relies on wells, usually hand dug and relatively shallow. Some 40,000 such wells, each typically serving several families, were destroyed or contaminated by the tsunami. The continued sustainability of the aquifers that supply such wells is in doubt, due to continued saltwater contamination, erosion of beaches, and other human impacts, such as sand mining, increased pumping, and pollution, according to an international team of scientists and engineers.
The 14-member team from the United States, Sri Lanka, and Denmark, reports its findings in a paper scheduled for publication on 9 May in the American Geophysical Union journal Water Resources Research. During investigations in Sri Lanka from February through September 2005, they found that the tsunami had affected coastal drinking water sources in several ways.
First, the tsunami itself, which reached up to 1.5 kilometers [0.9 miles] inland, poured seawater, along with other contaminants, directly into the open dug wells, rendering those that were not destroyed unusable. In some areas, as many as four large tsunami waves struck, with the second in the series often the largest. Aside from contamination of wells, large quantities of seawater penetrated from the flooded surface of the land through porous layers below and into the aquifer.
Harvey Leifert | AGU
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