Offshore freshened groundwater (OFG) and submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) are important components of coastal hydrologic systems. A lack of understanding of offshore groundwater systems and their interactions with onshore systems along the majority of global coastlines still exists due to a general paucity of field data. Recently, controlled-source electromagnetic (CSEM) techniques have emerged as a promising noninvasive method for identifying and characterizing OFG and SGD. Unfortunately, only a few systems are available in academic and research institutions worldwide, and applications are limited to specific regions. These systems are often limited by relatively high deployment costs, slow data acquisition rates, logistical complexity, and lack of modification options. A relatively inexpensive and user-friendly CSEM system is needed to overcome these limitations. We present the initial theoretical and practical developments of SWAN — a low-cost, modular, surface-towed hybrid time-frequency domain CSEM system capable of detecting OFG and SGD to water depths of 100 m. A field test of the system was carried out in the central Adriatic Sea at water depths between several tens to approximately 160 m to illustrate its capabilities. Through its ability to facilitate continuous measurements in both the time and frequency domain, the system has demonstrated its effectiveness in acquiring high-quality data while operating at towing speeds ranging from 2.5 to 3 kn. The resulting data coverage enables the system to detect variations in subsurface resistivity to depths of approximately 150–200 m below seafloor. With its modular, user-friendly design, SWAN provides an accessible, cost-efficient means to investigate the hydrogeology of shallow offshore environments.

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