Intensive pumping in urban coastal areas is a common threat to water resource quality due to seawater intrusion. In those areas where subsurface water resources are not usually used for human consumption or irrigation, intensive pumping is associated with other activities like the lowering of the water table necessary to support underground structures and building foundations. This activity also increases the likelihood of soil settlement that affects building stability and the corrosion of concrete structures due to groundwater salinity. Under these circumstances, the awareness of a certain municipality (Calonge, NE Spain) of the potential effects of groundwater withdrawal upon foundations has led to an integrated approach to anticipate seawater intrusion related to urban development. Geological mapping and correlation of borehole logs, electrical resistivity tomography, and hydrochemical data provide comprehensive knowledge of the geology and hydrogeology of the area and act as screening tools necessary to discern the influence of hydrological processes in coastal areas. Developing Strack's analytical solution, new comprehensive, dimensionless expressions are herein derived to determine the critical pumping rate necessary to prevent seawater intrusion, as well as to reproduce the evolution of the wedge toe and the water table stagnation point under different withdrawal rates. Furthermore, the Dupuit–Forchheimer well discharge formula allows the estimation of the effects of the water table lowering due to such critical pumping in the surrounding building foundations. Field data from the Calonge coastal plain illustrate this approach and provide assessment criteria for future urban development and planning. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.