Hydrogeological properties of fault zones in a karstified carbonate aquifer (Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria)
This study presents a comparative, field-based hydrogeological characterization of exhumed, inactive fault zones in low-porosity Triassic dolostones and limestones of the Hochschwab massif, a carbonate unit of high economic importance supplying 60 % of the drinking water of Austria’s capital, Vienna. Cataclastic rocks and sheared, strongly cemented breccias form low-permeability (<1 >mD) domains along faults. Fractured rocks with fracture densities varying by a factor of 10 and fracture porosities varying by a factor of 3, and dilation breccias with average porosities >3 % and permeabilities >1,000 mD form high-permeability domains. With respect to fault-zone architecture and rock content, which is demonstrated to be different for dolostone and limestone, four types of faults are presented. Faults with single-stranded minor fault cores, faults with single-stranded permeable fault cores, and faults with multiple-stranded fault cores are seen as conduits. Faults with single-stranded impermeable fault cores are seen as conduit-barrier systems. Karstic carbonate dissolution occurs along fault cores in limestones and, to a lesser degree, dolostones and creates superposed high-permeability conduits. On a regional scale, faults of a particular deformation event have to be viewed as forming a network of flow conduits directing recharge more or less rapidly towards the water table and the springs. Sections of impermeable fault cores only very locally have the potential to create barriers.