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Featured article from geoscience journal

Journal of Hydrology, 2011, Vol 408, Issue 3, p. 189-202
Karst and artificial recharge: Theoretical and practical problems: A preliminary approach to artificial recharge assessment
Abstract:

Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is an emerging sustainable technique that has already generated successful results and is expected to solve many water resource problems, especially in semi-arid and arid zones. It is of great interest for karst aquifers that currently supply 20–25% of the world’s potable water, particularly in Mediterranean countries. However, the high heterogeneity in karst aquifers is too complex to be able to locate and describe them simply via field observations. Hence, as compared to projects in porous media, MAR is still marginal in karst aquifers.
Accordingly, the present work presents a conceptual methodology for Aquifer Rechargeability Assessment in Karst – referred to as ARAK. The methodology was developed noting that artificial recharge in karst aquifers is considered an improbable challenge to solve since karst conduits may drain off recharge water without any significant storage, or recharge water may not be able to infiltrate. The aim of the ARAK method is to determine the ability of a given karst aquifer to be artificially recharged and managed, and the best sites for implementing artificial recharge from the surface. ARAK is based on multi-criteria indexation analysis modeled on karst vulnerability assessment methods. ARAK depends on four independent criteria, i.e. Epikarst, Rock, Infiltration and Karst. After dividing the karst domain into grids, these criteria are indexed using geological and topographic maps refined by field observations. ARAK applies a linear formula that computes the intrinsic rechargeability index based on the indexed map for every criterion, coupled with its attributed weighting rate. This index indicates the aptitude for recharging a given karst aquifer, as determined by studying its probability first on a regional scale for the whole karst aquifer, and then by characterizing the most favorable sites. Subsequently, for the selected sites, a technical and economic feasibility factor is applied, weighted by the difficulties that could occur when trying to undertake a recharge operation at a selected site from the surface. Each site is finally rated by its rechargeability index – the product of two factors, the intrinsic rechargeability and the feasibility index. ARAK was applied to the region of Damour, Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast where uncontrolled exploitation of public and private wells led to its partial salinization by seawater. A MAR system in Damour region represents an interesting solution to cope with salinization and the insufficiency of the resource