Submarine Groundwater Discharge Into Venice Lagoon, Italy

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Venice Lagoon, Italy, rests on a series of aquifers that are 1,000 m thick. Measurements of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) were made in Venice Lagoon using benthic chambers vented to a plastic collection bag. Two hundred measurements taken in a pristine northern lagoon site (Isola la Cura) revealed flow rates as high as 200 cm d−1 with an average of 30 cm d−1. Over 100 measurements taken adjacent to a bulkhead shoreline in the Porto Marghera industrial zone (Fusina) showed flow rates as high as 30 cm d−1 and averaging 6 cm d−1. These flow rates, if representative of even a fraction of the lagoon floor, are easily able to account for the 15% deficit previously calculated between precipitation and runoff for the entire Venice Lagoon drainage basin. Land elevation surrounding the Venice Lagoon is < 10 m within 20 km of the shoreline and is unable to support any substantial onshore water table. Submarine groundwater discharge most likely represents upward artesian discharge from deeper partially confined aquifers. Over 60 samples were collected in total from both sites for nutrient analysis. Ammonium concentration was found to be 2–8 fold higher in the device water than in the lagoon water at the northern site depending on season, and 10–30 times higher at the industrial zone site. These numbers suggest that SGD may be the primary pathway for nutrients and perhaps other contaminants to enter Venice Lagoon.


At the time of publication the author was affiliated with Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, ,Stony Brook, New York.