A new model for simulating spring discharge recession and estimating effective porosity of karst aquifers

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Journal of Hydrology


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Quantitative analysis of recession curves of karst spring hydrographs is a vital tool for understanding karst hydrology and inferring hydraulic properties of karst aquifers. This paper presents a new model for simulating karst spring recession curves. The new model has the following characteristics: (1) the model considers two separate but hydraulically connected reservoirs: matrix reservoir and conduit reservoir; (2) the model separates karst spring hydrograph recession into three stages: conduit-drainage stage, mixed-drainage stage (with both conduit drainage and matrix drainage), and matrix-drainage stage; and (3) in the mixed-drainage stage, the model uses multiple conduit layers to present different levels of conduit development. The new model outperforms the classical Mangin model and the recently developed Fiorillo model for simulating observed discharge at the Madison Blue Spring located in northern Florida. This is attributed to the latter two characteristics of the new model. Based on the new model, a method is developed for estimating effective porosity of the matrix and conduit reservoirs for the three drainage stages. The estimated porosity values are consistent with measured matrix porosity at the study site and with estimated conduit porosity reported in literature. The new model for simulating karst spring hydrograph recession is mathematically general, and can be applied to a wide range of karst spring hydrographs to understand groundwater flow in karst aquifers. The limitations of the model are discussed at the end of this paper.


Karst aquifer, Karst spring hydrograph, Recession curve, Hydrograph separation, Effective porosityConduit flow

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