Groundwater monitoring in the archaeological site of Ostia Antica (Rome, Italy): first results

  • Lucia Mastrorillo | Sciences Department, Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy.
  • Roberto Mazza Sciences Department, Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy.
  • Paola Tuccimei Sciences Department, Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy.
  • Carlo Rosa Italian Institute of Human Paleontology, Zoological Museum, Rome, Italy.
  • Renato Matteucci Special Superintendence for Colosseum, National Roman Museum and Roman Archaeological Area, Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Rome, Italy.


The archaeological site of Ostia Antica hosts the ruins of the ancient roman city called Ostia founded in the VII century B.C. near the mouth of Tiber River. The area was strategically important for Rome, not only for the control of the river, but also for some salt marshes (Ostia Pound). During the XIX century, the whole area was reclaimed and the salt production stopped. Nowadays drainage canals and pumps avoid the flood of zones placed below sea level, keeping dewatering below the ground surface. In February 2014, the site was largely flooded after an exceptional rainfall event and the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Rome ordered the closure for 15 days. Few months later (July 2014) a groundwater monitoring project started with the aim of studying the aquifer response to local rainfall and prevent future damage and groundwater flooding. The activity consisted in water-table monitoring, groundwater electrical conductivity (EC) and temperature continuous measurements, coupled with chemical analysis of major ions. Preliminary results shows the link between water table fluctuations and rainfall distributions. The average elevation of the archaeological area is about 2,5 m a.s.l. and the local water-table depth is of about 0,5 m a.s.l.; groundwater flows from the Tiber River to the reclaimed area according to regional flowpath. Groundwater sampled from three wells is Ca-HCO3 freshwater (600 - 1000 μS/cm), while the sample collected from a well located close to ancient salt storage warehouse (now Ostia Antica museum), is Na-Cl brackish water (about 4000 μS/cm). The chemical evolution of groundwater from summer to winter suggested a possible lateral inflow from the Tiber River, affected by salt-wedge intrusion. The inflow of Ca-Cl, SO4 Tiber’s water with an intermediate salinity could determine salinization of Ca-HCO3 freshwaters and refreshing of Na-Cl brackish water.



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Original Papers
Coastal aquifer, Salt-wedge intrusion, Water-table monitoring, Archaeological heritage, Rome
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How to Cite
Mastrorillo, L., Mazza, R., Tuccimei, P., Rosa, C., & Matteucci, R. (2016). Groundwater monitoring in the archaeological site of Ostia Antica (Rome, Italy): first results. Acque Sotterranee - Italian Journal of Groundwater, 5(1).