Saltwater intrusion risk assessment is a foundational step for preventing and controlling salinization in coastal regions. The Vietnamese Mekong Delta (VMD) is highly affected by drought and salinization threats, especially severe under the impacts of global climate change and the rapid development of an upstream hydropower dam system. This study aimed to apply a modified DRASTIC model, which combines the generic DRASTIC model with hydrological and anthropogenic factors (i.e., river catchment and land use), to examine seawater intrusion vulnerability in the soil-water-bearing layer in the Ben Tre province, located in the VMD. One hundred and fifty hand-auger samples for total dissolved solids (TDS) measurements, one of the reflected salinity parameters, were used to validate the results obtained with both the DRASTIC and modified DRASTIC models. The spatial analysis tools in the ArcGIS software (i.e., Kriging and data classification tools) were used to interpolate, classify, and map the input factors and salinization susceptibility in the study area. The results show that the vulnerability index values obtained from the DRASTIC and modified DRASTIC models were 36–128 and 55–163, respectively. The vulnerable indices increased from inland districts to coastal areas. The Ba Tri and Binh Dai districts were recorded as having very high vulnerability to salinization, while the Chau Thanh and Cho Lach districts were at a low vulnerability level. From the comparative analysis of the two models, it is obvious that the modified DRASTIC model with the inclusion of a river or canal network and agricultural practices factors enables better performance than the generic DRASTIC model. This enhancement is explained by the significant impact of anthropogenic activities on the salinization of soil water content. This study’s results can be used as scientific implications for planners and decision-makers in river catchment and land-use management practices.
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