Differences between coastal and continental hydrology

Continental hydrology focuses on inland freshwater systems, while coastal hydrology examines the interactions between land and sea in coastal zones.

Hydrologists like to say that coasts are just rivers with just one bank instead of two!

However, continental hydrology and coastal hydrology are two branches of hydrology that focus on different geographic areas and water systems:

About Continental Hydrology:

  • Continental hydrology primarily deals with the study of water resources, processes, and phenomena occurring within the interior regions of continents. This includes rivers, lakes, groundwater, and other freshwater bodies that are not directly influenced by oceanic processes.
  • Key components of continental hydrology include the study of precipitation patterns, runoff generation, evaporation, infiltration, groundwater flow, and the interactions between surface water and groundwater.
  • Continental hydrology involves research into water management, irrigation, flood control, and the sustainable use of freshwater resources for various purposes such as agriculture, industry, and domestic consumption.

About Coastal Hydrology:

  • Coastal hydrology focuses on the study of water-related processes occurring in the coastal zones where land and sea meet. This includes estuaries, beaches, coastal wetlands, tidal zones, and nearshore areas.
  • Coastal hydrology is concerned with the dynamics of tides, waves, storm surges, sediment transport, erosion, and deposition in coastal environments.
  • Coastal hydrology also involves the investigation of saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, coastal groundwater dynamics, and the impacts of sea level rise and climate change on coastal water resources.
  • Coastal hydrology plays a crucial role in coastal engineering, coastal zone management, coastal ecosystem preservation, and the sustainable development of coastal areas.

All in all, while both continental hydrology and coastal hydrology study aspects of water resources and processes, they differ in their focus areas and the types of water bodies and processes they primarily address. Continental hydrology deals with freshwater systems within continental interiors, while coastal hydrology focuses on the complex interactions between land and sea in coastal zones. At BWI, we’ve chosen to focus on continental freshwater for now. But understanding the interactions between coastal hydrology and continental hydrology will be one of our technical challenges in a near future.