Developing effective resource management strategies to limit or prevent saltwater intrusion as a result of increasing demands on coastal groundwater resources requires reliable information about the geologic structure and hydrologic state of an aquifer system. A common strategy for acquiring such information is to drill sentinel wells near the coast to monitor changes in water salinity with time. However, installation and operation of sentinel wells is costly and provides limited spatial coverage. We studied the use of noninvasive electromagnetic (EM) geophysical methods as an alternative to installation of monitoring wells for characterizing coastal aquifers. We tested the feasibility of using EM methods at a field site in northern California to identify the potential for and/or presence of hydraulic communication between an unconfined saline aquifer and a confined freshwater aquifer. One-dimensional soundings were acquired using the time-domain electromagnetic (TDEM) and audiomagnetotelluric (AMT) methods. We compared inverted resistivity models of TDEM and AMT data obtained from several inversion algorithms. We found that multiple interpretations of inverted models can be supported by the same data set, but that there were consistencies between all data sets and inversion algorithms. Results from all collected data sets suggested that EM methods are capable of reliably identifying a saltwater-saturated zone in the unconfined aquifer. Geophysical data indicated that the impermeable clay between aquifers may be more continuous than is supported by current models.

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