Dr. Matthew Agius – SEA EU Talent – Coastal Management

SEA EU Talent Comunication

Title: Groundwater monitoring in Malta from ambient seismic noise: Preliminary results from project SIGMA


Malta, a small island nation in the centre of the Mediterranean, is deemed the European country facing the highest stress on its water resources. A significant volume of groundwater is used in the agricultural sector from the direct abstraction via boreholes or underground galleries. To improve the groundwater monitoring in Malta, which currently depends on a network of in situ borehole readings, we analyse ambient seismic noise data recorded on the Malta Seismic Network (MSN) as part of the project SIGMA (Seismic Imaging of Groundwater for Maltese Aquifers). We investigate temporal changes in seismic velocity as an indication of the variability of water in underground rocks. Water-saturated rocks have an increased pore pressure, which, in turn, leads to the opening of cracks in the rock that reduces the contact area between different grains of rock leading to a decrease in seismic velocity. We process all the seismic data available on the island and find that the changes in the seismic velocities have seasonal patterns. We compare our seismic analysis with the groundwater measurements from nearby boreholes to investigate their correlation. Project SIGMA is financed by the Energy and Water Agency under the National Strategy for Research and Innovation in Energy and Water (2021-2030).

Matthew Agius Short CV

Dr. Matthew Agius is a seismologist currently working as a post-doctorate researcher at the Seismic Monitoring and Research Group within the Department of Geosciences, University of Malta.

His research interests range from (i) setting up and operating onshore and offshore seismic networks, (ii) processing seismic signals to locate earthquakes, (iii) real-time earthquake monitoring and tsunami simulation, (iv) using large seismic datasets to image the Earth’s lithosphere and mantle, and (v) exploring subsurface processes such as groundwater.

Agius has worked on various projects: SIGMA (funded by EWA), GEOMED (MSCA-IF, EC), PILAB (ERC, NERC, NSF), SIMIT-THARSY & SIMIT (INTERREG). A full list of publications can be found here https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=b326hroAAAAJ&hl=en

Contact: matthew.agius@um.edu.mt