Groundwater dynamics between Planinsko Polje and springs of the Ljubljanica River, Slovenia


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Acta Carsologica

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Caves reaching the (epi)phreatic zone may provide the only access to groundwater in the internal parts of karst aquifers. Modern instruments enable unattended high frequency measurements of groundwater parameters in such caves. A network of distributed observation points may give new information on temporal and spatial pattern of groundwater flow. Such network, recording water level, temperature and specific electrical conductivity was established in all major ponors and active water caves of the karst aquifer between Planinsko Polje and springs of the Ljubljanica River, Slovenia. Up to three and a half years long records were analysed in view of available and relevant geological, speleological, meteorological and hydrological information, and basic hydraulic principles of the epiphreatic flow. The result of the interpretation were models of possible conduit networks of the three main flow subsystems draining Planinsko Polje. For each subsystem a hydraulic model comprising the main features of the inferred conduit network and inputs was made. The models were adjusted until their response to the typical flood situations gave a good qualitative fit to the response of the observation network. The results provide new insights into the mechanism of flood propagation through the system and its relation to the known conduit geometry. The hydraulic role of known cave passages is assessed and new flow pathways are proposed. Back-flooding within the aquifer causes an increase of head in the polje, followed by the activation of higher located ponor zones and flow pathways related to them. Hydrographs recorded in two caves located northwest from Planinsko Polje revealed pos sible high transmissivity zone of the Idrija Fault Zone and the mechanism of estavelles located at the polje’s north-western border. The approach taken in this work offers new insights into the relation between the conduit network geometry and flood mechanism. It can be used elsewhere in conduit-dominated systems with multiple accesses to groundwater flow and well constrained recharge.

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