• Camou twin springs discharge cold and hot-saline waters, from distinct water bodies
  • We studied the dynamic of thermohaline using temperature-depth dataloggers
  • Water bodies with different physic characteristic do not mix, even in same conduit
  • We suggest a hydrodynamic model for non-mixing in highly karstified context
  • Camou springs are an outstanding case of continental stratified karst aquifer


The Camou springs (Arbailles Massif, French Western Pyrenees) display an unusual close association of a typically cold karstic spring that drains the Urgonian western limb of the Arbailles, and a thermo-mineral spring (33.5°C; salinity 17.7 g/L). The latter gains its mineralization at the contact of Triassic evaporites mainly through a deep loop in the Apanicé syncline. The fast upflow of this deep water occurs at the cross of large active lines (the North-Pyrenean thrust located at depth, and the Saison transverse fault). Cave diving in the nearby Maddalen Cave allowed reaching the phreatic passage at the origin of the cold spring, which however also crosses the thermal body in the third sump (S3). Both water bodies are separated by a sharp thermocline. 6 pressure-temperature dataloggers were placed in both water bodies along the thermocline for 6 months. The dataloggers located downstream on either side of the thermocline show at the beginning of flood first a rise of the thermal body, then an invasion of the whole phreatic passage by the cold floodwater, controlled by head pressure changes in the karst aquifer. From observation of these mechanisms, we deduce a hydrodynamic model with a warm plume rising into the cold aquifer, without significant mixing. Such independence of water bodies is explained by the decrease of turbulent rate at the interface, due to the sharp density gradient. The relative absence of mixing does not actually require independent “watertight” routes, both water bodies can thus coexist even in the same conduit. This model locally implies the existence of unknown secondary passages close to the spring, which allow an independent draining of each water body toward separate outlets during low stage. Such type of stratified aquifer linked to density differences is common in coastal karst (Florida, French Calanques…), in the continental evaporite karst (Schlotten of the Harz in Germany, Kungur karst in Ural…), but remains poorly identified in continental carbonate karst areas, mainly because of the difficulty of access. Together with the Mescla spring in French Alpes-Maritimes, the Camou twin springs discharging in the same porch are an outstanding example, allowing a direct study of the stratification and the dynamic of highly contrasted water bodies.



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