Main concepts of the "European approach" to karst-groundwater-vulnerability assessment and mapping
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In order to achieve some consistency in the establishment of groundwater intrinsic vulnerability maps in Europe, a new approach is proposed by Working Group 1 of the European COST Action 620 on "Vulnerability mapping for the protection of carbonate (karst) aquifers". A general procedure is offered which provides consistency while allowing the required flexibility for application to a continent and under conditions of varying geology, scale, information availability, time, and resources. The proposed methodology is designed to be clearly more physically based than the existing vulnerability-mapping techniques. It takes the specificity of the karstic environments into account without necessarily excluding the applicability to other geological conditions. Combined "core factors" for overlying layers and for concentration of flow account for the relative protection of groundwater from contamination while taking into account any bypass of the overlying layers. A precipitation factor is distinguished for describing characteristics of the input of water to the system. Differentiation is made between groundwater resource intrinsic vulnerability mapping and source intrinsic vulnerability mapping. For the latter, a factor describing the karst network development is relevant. This short technical note describes a first step in the work program of Working Group 1 of the COST Action 620. Future steps are now in progress to quantify the approach and to apply it in various European pilot areas.