The low-lying coastal area of Ravenna (North-eastern Italy), like the majority of delta and coastal zones around the world, is affected by groundwater salinization due to natural processes (such as low topography, natural land subsidence, seawater encroachment along estuaries, etc.) and anthropogenic activities (i.e., increased anthropogenic subsidence rate, sea level rise, geofluids extraction, and drainage). Among all factors causing aquifer salinization, water drainage plays an important role in lowering the hydraulic head and favouring saltwater seepage in the Ravenna coastal aquifer. A network of drainage canals and water pumping stations first allowed for the reclamation of the low-lying territory and today are fundamental to keep land and infrastructures dry and maintain effective soil depth for agriculture practices. The aim of this work is to identify and assess factors affecting water drainage long-time series (1971–2017) of the most important mechanical drainage basin in this low-lying coastal area. Statistical analyses of drainage, climate, and land use change datasets help constrain the relative weight of each single factor potentially causing an increase of water drainage through time. The results show that, among these factors, subsidence rates and seepage processes are the most significant. The data trends also indicate that the climate, especially in terms of precipitation amount and extreme events, played no important role during the studied time interval. The process of infiltration soil capacity loss due to urbanization and consequent soil sealing probably has a small secondary effect. Moreover, an increase in pumping through time will exacerbate aquifer salinization and compromise freshwater availability in the coastal area.
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