Assessment of groundwater recharge in an ash-fall mantled karst aquifer of southern Italy

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ferdinando Manna1, John R Nimmo2, Pantaleone De Vita1 and Vincenzo Allocca1, (1)The University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy, (2)USGS California Water Science Center Menlo Park, Menlo Park, CA, United States
In southern Italy, Mesozoic carbonate formations, covered by ash-fall pyroclastic soils, are large karst aquifers and major groundwater resources. For these aquifers, even though Allocca et al., 2014 estimated a mean annual groundwater recharge coefficient at regional scale, a more complete understanding of the recharge processes at small spatio-temporal scale is a primary scientific target.

In this paper, we study groundwater recharge processes in the Acqua della Madonna test site (Allocca et al., 2008) through the integrated analysis of piezometric levels, rainfall, soil moisture and air temperature data. These were gathered with hourly frequency by a monitoring station in 2008. We applied the Episodic Master Recharge method (Nimmo et al., 2014) to identify episodes of recharge and estimate the Recharge to Precipitation Ratio (RPR) at both the individual-episode and annual time scales.

For different episodes of recharge observed, RPR ranges from 97% to 37%, with an annual mean around 73%. This result has been confirmed by a soil water balance and the application of the Thornthwaite-Mather method to estimate actual evapotranspiration. Even though it seems higher than RPRs typical of some parts of the world, it is very close to the mean annual groundwater recharge coefficient estimated at the regional scale for the karst aquifers of southern Italy. In addition, the RPR is affected at the daily scale by both antecedent soil moisture and rainfall intensity, as demonstrated by a statistically significant multiple linear regression among such hydrological variables. In particular, the recharge magnitude is great for low storm intensity and high antecedent soil moisture value.

The results advance the comprehension of groundwater recharge processes in karst aquifers, and the sensitivity of RPR to antecedent soil moisture and rainfall intensity facilitates the prediction of the influence of climate and precipitation regime change on the groundwater recharge process.