Characterization of Karst Aquifer


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Publication Date

February 2015


Proper knowledge of an aquifer system is prerequisite for its utilization, protection from pollution, and sustainable development. The sections of this chapter provide an overview of main aspects, which must be surveyed and recognized for proper characterization of a karstic aquifer: aquifer geometry and elements, permeability and storativity, flow types and pattern, aquifer recharge, aquifer discharge, quality of karst groundwater. Based on rich literature (82 listed references) and its evaluation sometimes including contradictory theories and approaches, main principles of karst aquifer hydrodynamics and karstic groundwater flow and storage are explained. Numerous classifications are also given. They consider aquifer properties such as porosity and permeability, types of recharge, flow, and discharge regime. Different factors that influence aquifer properties are also specified and their roles explained. Limitation of application of the Darcy hydraulic law in heterogenous and anisotropic aquifer such as karstic is also discussed and illustrated with a few examples. Special attention has been paid to the role of epikarst, the depth to the karstification base, and effective storativity of the aquifers which influence the natural aquifer discharge regime and enable or diminish opportunities for engineering interventions to regulate this regime.The broad classification of karstic springs provided is based on ten different criteria and includes 41 spring types. Some of the world’s largest springs such as Fontaine de Vaucluse or Kaiserbrunn are used to illustrate different discharge mechanisms of the springs or their importance for potable water supply. Although mostly theoretical, this chapter contains 19 boxes with practical examples and exercises for the trainees. The large number of illustrations, in total 58 photographs and sketches, helps to familiarize readers with various aspects of karst aquifer behavior and its quantitative and qualitative components.


Permeability, Epikarst, Recharge Types, Discharge Regime, Springs Classification