Dynamic Vulnerability of Karst Systems: a Concept to understand qualitative and quantitative Aspects of Karst springs due to Changes in Groundwater Recharge

Thursday, 17 December 2015: 11:50
3018 (Moscone West)
Peter Huggenberger1, Christoph Butscher2, Jannis Epting1, Adrian Auckenthaler3 and Applied and Environmental Geology, University of Basel, Switzerland, (1)University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland, (2)Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany, (3)Amt für Umweltschutz und Energie, Liestal, Switzerland
Karst groundwater resources represent valuable water resources, which may be affected by different types of pollution and changes of groundwater recharge by climate change. In many parts of Europe, it has been predicted that record-breaking heat waves, such as the one experienced in 2003 and 2015, will become more frequent. At the same time, even as summers become drier, the incidence of severe precipitation events could increase. What is the influence such changes to the quantitative and qualitative aspects of Karst groundwater systems?

A factor to be considered in conjunction with groundwater quality is the vulnerability of the resource, which is defined as the sensitivity of a groundwater system to pollution. Intrinsic vulnerability refers to the sensitivity to pollution when considering only natural, geogenic conditions without the effects of human activities such as contaminant release. Intrinsic vulnerability depends on the recharge conditions, which are dependent on the surface and subsurface structure and on precipitation and evaporation patterns. The latter are highly time dependent. Therefore, our groundwater vulnerability concept also includes dynamic aspects of the system, the variations of spatial and temporal components.

We present results of combined monitoring and modelling experiments of several types of Karst systems in the Tabular and the Folded Jura of NW Switzerland.

The recharge, conduit flow, diffuse flow(RCD) rainfall-discharge model “RCD-seasonal” was used to simulate the discharge and substance concentration of several spring. This lumped parameter model include: the recharge system (soil and epikarst system), the conduit flow system, and the diffuse flow system.

The numerically derived Dynamic Vulnerability Index (DVI) can indicate qualitative changes of spring water with sufficient accuracy to be used for drinking water management. In addition, the results obtained from the test sites indicate a decrease in short-lived contaminants in spring water as a result of climate change. The impact of persistent contaminants, however, can only be determined if future climatic conditions at the site can be estimated with sufficient accuracy, because predicted summer heat waves and severe rainfall events will have opposite effects on the groundwater vulnerability.