Factors which determine the hydrogeochemical behaviour of karstic springs. A case study from the Betic Cordilleras, Spain


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April 2001


The Cabra-Alcaide karstic massif situated in the south of Spain constitutes an important part of the so-called Natural Park of the Subbetic Sierras. This aquifer system is drained by various springs which supply a population of some 100,000 inhabitants. The feed areas of these springs show very different characteristics with respect to their geological structure, size of the drainage area, thickness of the vadose zone, elevation and degree of karstification. In addition, the carbonate rocks lie over a clayey substratum which contains large masses of intercalated evaporites. Due to these conditions, the hydrochemical composition of the springs is relatively variable. In this study a hydrogeochemical characterization of the aquifer in both space and time is undertaken and the factors that determine it are discussed. To achieve this, 19 monthly samples were taken from the 6 most significant springs of the hydrogeological system. The commencement of sampling coincided with the transition from a period of several years of severe drought and a very wet two-year period, which amplified considerably the hydrochemical and hydrodynamic response of the springs to the recharge. Identification of hydrogeochemical processes was performed by studying hydrographs, the temporal evolution of physico-chemical parameters, ionic ratios (mainly Mg/Ca) and by means of simple and multivariate statistical analyses. The saturation status was established using the WATEQF program and the mass transfer was quantified using PHREEQC. With the exception of the epikarstic subsystem (i.e. the Zarza spring), the majority of the results indicate that the aquifer exhibits a diffuse flow model, in which piston flow phenomena are seen, closely linked to the most intense precipitation. Along the direction of flow hydrochemical trends are seen as the water type changes from Ca–HCO3 to Ca–Mg–HCO3; at the same time enrichment in some ions, derived from the dissolution of evaporitic minerals of the impermeable substratum, and dedolomitization processes occ


Hydrogeochemical Behaviour, Karstic Springs, Betic Cordilleras, Spain

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Applied Geochemistry, Vol. 16, no. 9-10 (2001-04-01).