Sea level rise could have dramatic effect on Hawaii

UH researchers say groundwater inundation could cause flooding

 UPDATED 9:02 AM HST Nov 19, 2012

Due to climate change, University of Hawaii researchers Kolja Rotzoll and Chip Fletcher say sea levels have been slowly increasing around the world.

According to the UH study, the sea could rise a foot by the year 2050 and three feet by the end of the century . UH scientists say this increase in ocean water, could cause coastal flooding and cause the groundwater to rise at the same time.

"The freshwater body is less dense than the salt water and it floats on the salt water but as soon the sea level rises, the freshwater level will rise as well," said UH researcher Kolja Rotzoll.

Scientists say if the sea level were to rise, the inundation from the ground flooding would be more widespread than marine flooding.

"The distance of one kilometer (.62 miles) from the coastline about ten percent of that area will be inundated if the sea level rises by one meter (3 feet), in the entire area between Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor." said Rotzoll.

However, engineers at the Board of Water supply say the threat is still decades away and may not be as drastic as the study shows.

"It will get that much closer to the bottom of our wells but I think we still have enough distance from the bottom of the well and the between the fresh water and salt water that we're OK." said Ernest Lau with the Board of Water Supply.

Engineers from the board are taking the findings seriously. They are closely monitoring the wells, especially in low-lying areas, just in case there is a flux in the freshwater readings

"As we watch the changes between the salinity of our drinking water and see drastic changes then we'll have to see about relocating wells further inland," said Lau.

The UH researchers did the study on the south shore of Oahu, but say the groundwater inundation could happen in any low lying area around the state.

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