Modeling a network of turloughs in lowland karst

L. W. Gill
O. Naughton
P. M. Johnston

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1] In lowland karst areas of Ireland topographic depressions which get intermittently flooded on an annual cycle via groundwater sources are termed turloughs. These are sites of high ecological interest as they have communities and substrate characteristic of wetlands. The flooding in many turlough basins is due to insufficient capacity of the underground karst system to take increased flows following excessive precipitation events, causing the conduit‐type network to surcharge. Continuous water level measurements have been taken in five linked turloughs in the lowland karst area of south Galway over a 3 year period. These water level fluctuations, in conjunction with river inputs and precipitation, were then used to elucidate the hydrogeological controls forming the hydraulic system beneath the ground. A model of the karst network has been developed using a pipe network model with the turloughs represented as ponds. The contribution to the karst network from diffuse flow through the epikarst via the matrix and fracture flow has also been modeled using a combination of an infiltration module and network of permeable pipes. The final model was calibrated against two separate hydrological years and in general provided a good simulation for all of the turloughs water levels particularly for the year with one main filling event. The model also accurately picked up the tidal response observed in these turloughs at shallow depths. The model has been used to predict the groundwater discharge to the coast via the main spring which had not heretofore been possible to measure, being below the sea level.