A Conceptual Model of Karstic Erosion by Ground Water


S. Mandel


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Publication Date

January 2010


In the saturated zone of calcareous aquifers the process of erosion by solution proceeds at a very slow pace, and consists essentially of two correlated phenomena: Solution channels are formed and widened in the vicinity of springs where a strong concentration of flow occurs. The solution channels gradually develop in an upstream direction, until gradually one giant spring “captures” the ground water of an entire calcareous massif. Throughout the aquifer an intricate system of solution channels develops, the dominant characteristic of which is its direction towards the outlet. Broadly speaking and neglecting local details, the process should be regarded as the transformation of a more or less isotropic aquifer into a strongly an-isotropic one. The direction of ground water flow is the determining factor in the karstic development of calcareous aquifers, variations of lithology, faults, fissures, etc. are only of secondary importance. A regional system of solution channels can develop only if the general hydrological conditions, most especially the location of the base-level, remain practically constant during very long time intervals. The preferential directions of flow tend to become “fossilized”, and do not necessarily reflect the most recent geological events. From these considerations some practical consequences follow concerning the large-scale exploitation of ground water from calcareous aquifers.


Conceptual Model, Karstic Erosion, Ground Water

Document Type



International Association of Scientific Hydrology. Bulletin, Vol. 11, no. 1 (2010-01-04).