Assessment of regional flow type and groundwater sensitivity to pollution using hydrograph analyses and hydrochemical data of the Selita and Blue Eye karst springs, Albania
The assessment of groundwater vulnerability/sensitivity to pollution in karstic aquifers usually concentrates on recognition of fast-flow (conduit flow) and slow-flow (diffuse flow) components or intermediate regimes and their ratio in the total discharged volume. Analysis of master recession curves and correlation between physical characteristics of springs and temporal variations in spring water chemistry were applied to two major karst springs of Albania: Selita Spring (mean discharge 510 L s−1), exploited for Tirana water supply, and Blue Eye Spring (mean discharge 18,182 L s−1), used for electric power generation. These springs are recharged by precipitation in two very different karst areas with respect to their karstification degree, which influences also groundwater circulation patterns within karstic aquifers. Different regional groundwater flow types are subsequently reflected in the different spring hydrographs and in the temporal hydrochemical variations. Based on the spring master recession curves, Selita Spring is characterised as a conduit spring where the fast-flow component represents the majority of groundwater flow, and its catchment area should be linked with a high degree of sensitivity to pollution. On the other hand, in the discharge regime of Blue Eye Spring, the slow-flow component dominates, and although having a discharge of one order of magnitude bigger, this is a diffuse-flow spring and its catchment area should have lower sensitivity to potential pollution. The same results were also confirmed by statistical treatment of the temporal variations in spring water chemistry and evidence of surface karst phenomena in their recharge areas.