Some 40,000 Sri Lankan Wells, Each Serving Several Families, Were Destroyed or Contaminated by the Tsunami

Scientists from the United States, Sri Lanka, and Denmark found that the tsunami poured large quantities of seawater and other contaminants into the wells as well as into the aquifers. Efforts to restore wells have sometimes been counterproductive because excessive pumping may have allowed more seawater to enter the aquifers from below and caused many wells to collapse. Finally, contaminated water that was pumped out of wells was often discharged in places that permitted contaminants to seep back into aquifers and wells.

Most coastal groundwater is stored in sandy aquifers that are replenished by rainwater, especially the October-to-February monsoons. This recharge has been slow in many of the most-affected areas because as did not receive substantial rainfall for almost a year. Salinity levels have declined slowly, if at all, in many of the wells that continued to be pumped. It will take several more monsoon seasons for the aquifers to recover.

American Geophysical Union, “Sri Lanka Water Supply Still Suffers Effects of 2004 Tsunami,” News Release, Washington, DC, 8 May 2006.