Modeling spatially and temporally varied hydraulic behavior of a folded karst system with dominant conduit drainage at catchment scale, Hochifen–Gottesacker, Alps


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June 2014


Karst aquifers are important for freshwater supply, but difficult to manage, due to highly variable water levels and spring discharge rates. Conduits are crucial for groundwater flow in karst aquifers, but their location is often unknown, thus limiting the applicability and validity of numerical models. We have applied a conduit model (SWMM) to simulate highly variable flow in a folded alpine karst aquifer system, where the underground drainage pattern is comparatively well-known from previous tracer studies. The conduit model was coupled with a reservoir model representing recharge, storage and transfer of water in the epikarst and unsaturated zone. The global optimization approach (GA) was applied to achieve an efficient model calibration. It was possible to simultaneously simulate the highly variable discharge characteristics of an estavelle, and overflow spring and a permanent spring draining the conduit system. The model allowed for the collection of spatially differentiated information on recharge, rapid flow and slow flow in four individual sub-catchments. The formation of backwater upgradient from conduit restrictions turned out to be a key process in activating overflow springs. The proposed modeling approach appears to be transferrable to other karst systems with predominant conduit drainage, but requires previous knowledge of the configuration of the conduit system.


Karst, Aquifer, Conduit, Drainage, Network, Alpine, Hydrology, Hydraulic, Modeling, Hydrologic Variability, Estavelle

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Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 514 (2014-06-06).