Karst groundwater: a challenge for new resources

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Karst aquifers have complex and original characteristics which make them very different from other aquifers: high heterogeneity created and organised by groundwater flow, large voids, high flow velocities up to several hundreds of m/h, high flow rate springs up to some tens of m3/s. Different conceptual models, known from the literature, attempt to take into account all these particularities. The study methods used in classical hydrogeology—bore hole, pumping test and distributed models—are generally invalid and unsuccessful in karst aquifers, because the results cannot be extended to the whole aquifer nor to some parts, as is done in non-karst aquifers. Presently, karst hydrogeologists use a specific investigation methodology (described here), which is comparable to that used in surface hydrology. Important points remain unsolved. Some of them are related to fundamental aspects such as the void structure – only a conduit network, or a conduit network plus a porous matrix –, the functioning – threshold effects and non-linearities –, the modeling of the functioning – double or triple porosity, or viscous flow in conduits – and of karst genesis. Some other points deal with practical aspects, such as the assessment of aquifer storage capacity or vulnerability, or the prediction of the location of highly productive zones.

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