Application of Dye-Tracing Techniques for Determining Solute-Transport Characteristics of Ground Water in Karst Terranes


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January 1988


Some of the most serious incidents of ground-water contamination, nationwide, have been reported in karst terranes. Karst terranes are characterized by sinkholes; karst windows; springs; caves; and losing, sinking, gaining, and underground streams. These karst features are environmentally significant because they are commonly directly connected to the ground-water system. If these ground-water systems are used as a drinking water source, their environmental significance is increased. Sinkholes are especially significant because they can funnel surface runoff to the groundwater system. Thus, any pollutant carried by surface runoff across a karst terrane has the potential for rapid transport to the ground-water system. Because of the extreme vulnerability of karst ground-water systems to contamination, water-management and protection agencies need an understanding of the occurrence of ground water, including the extent of the recharge areas for specific karst aquifers, a knowledge of the inherent vulnerabilities of the systems, and an understanding of the characteristics of pollutant transport within the systems. To provide water managers (those responsible for providing and managing water supplies) and protection agencies (those responsible for regulating water supplies and water quality) with a tool for the management and protection of their karst water resources, the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with Region IV of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has prepared this manual to illustrate the application of dye-tracing results and the related predictive techniques that could be used for the protection of ground-water supplies in karst terrane. This manual will also be useful for State and local agencies responsible for implementing Wellhead Protection Programs pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act as amended in 1986. This manual includes a brief review of karst hydrogeology, summarizes dye-tracing concepts and selected techniques, lists sources for equipment and materials, and includes an extensive


Ground-Water, Contamination, Karst Terranes

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