• karst aquifer;
  • factor analysis;
  • discriminant analysis;
  • trend surface analysis;
  • seawater intrusion;
  • nitrate pollution


A variety of multivariate statistical procedures were applied to three separate sets of quantitative analytical data from a coastal aquifer located in Malia, Crete (Greece), in order to identify the major hydrochemical processes affecting the groundwater quality and to investigate the evolution of groundwater composition in three different sampling periods. Two of them were carried out on October 2001 and September 2002 at the end of the dry season and the third on April 2002 at the end of the wet period. Two factors were found that explained major hydrochemical processes in the aquifer. These factors reveal the existence of an intensive intrusion of seawater and mechanisms of nitrate contamination of groundwater. Bivariate plots of the scores of the two main factors showed that the seawater intrusion and nitrate pollution processes are maintained through three surveys and that the process of nitrate pollution increases from the first to the second dry survey. Q-mode factor analysis and discriminant analysis of the three sampling periods clearly showed a seasonal variation of the whole chemistry of groundwater samples. This seasonal variation can be attributed to the freshwater recharge and seawater intrusion that affect the groundwater quality of the Malia aquifer. The results of trend surface analysis are in agreement with those of factor analysis. Moreover, the fourth-order trend surfaces of EC, Cl and NO3 showed that the salinization process is more intensive during the first dry period and the spatial variation of NO3 maxima plumes are strongly affected by the flow regime of the Malia aquifer. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.