Conditioning factors in flooding of karstic poljes—the case of the Zafarraya polje (South Spain)


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The Zafarraya polje undergoes periodical flooding, of which the last episode (1996–1997) was analysed in detail on this paper. On the basis of the retention curves of the two lakes that formed in the northwestern and southwestern sectors, we calculated the total infiltration capacity of the polje to have a maximum value of 3–3.5 m3/s and so we infer that when the flow of the Arroyo de la Madre exceeds this figure, there will be a risk of flooding in the polje. We also propose a model for the 1996 flood that can be extended to other similar occurrences in this and other poljes where we can establish the role played by groundwater and surface water during this flood. In response to the heavy precipitation, the flow of the Arroyo de la Madre rose abruptly, exceeding the infiltration capacity of the main swallow holes on the polje, causing first the northern lake and then the southern lake to form with only surface water supply. The water table of the karst aquifer rose sharply, reaching a situation of equilibrium between the level in the lakes and the water table in this sector of the karst aquifer that prevented infiltration through the swallow holes. In the case of the southern lake, there were even cases of swallow holes that began to operate as estavelles. During this phase of maximum flooding, one single lake was present, which was divided into two once more when the water table of the karst aquifer in the polje sector began to fall and surface supply also began to decrease.

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