SALTSA project: Groundwater salinisation following sea level rise as a societal challenge of climate adaptation - The case of North-Western Germany

Photo: Low-lying coastal area of the SALTSA project. Direction towards hinterland. © Karrasch.
Photo: Low-lying coastal area of the SALTSA project. Direction towards North Sea (Dollart). © Karrasch.

Groundwater salinisation is one of the major problems associated with sea level rise, yet it is a problem which has been overseen for a long time by society and decision makers, as it is a phenomenon that is progressing comparatively slow and its impacts only unfold with a strong delay due to the sluggish nature of sub-surface flow. Hence, it is a problem that may be classified as a “creeping catastrophy” posing challenges to a better understanding of the problem dimensions as well as for the development of societal responses. It is crucial to understand the vulnerability of groundwater systems to rising sea levels following climate change and to understand the primary factors that determine the magnitude of system response to develop effective management and adaptation strategies in coastal zones. The project aims at identifying the response of the coastal aquifers along the entire German Bight to sea level rise in the North Sea based on predictions from the SPP SeaLevel. For this purpose, large scale regional numerical variable density groundwater flow and transport modelling are applied. Moreover, socio-economic consequences of the predicted groundwater salinisation are investigated in order to assess abatement options. A particular focus lies on perceptions, knowledge and learning processes of relevant societal actors.  The objectives of the proposed research are related to the general objectives of the SPP “to determine the natural and social coastal systems responses to future sea level change”, and “to assess strategies to adapt to sea level change under given technical, economic, cultural, social and political constraints”.


Gould, I., De Waegemaeker, J., Tzemi, D., Wright, I., Pearson, S., Ruto, E., Karrasch, L., Christensen, L.S., Aronsson, H., Eich-Greatorex, S., Bosworth, G. & Vellinga, P. (2021). Salinization Threats to Agriculture across the North Sea Region. Future of Sustainable Agriculture in Saline Environments, 71-92.