Articles | Volume 16, issue 11
Research article
13 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 13 Nov 2012

Origin and assessment of deep groundwater inflow in the Ca' Lita landslide using hydrochemistry and in situ monitoring

F. Cervi, F. Ronchetti, G. Martinelli, T. A. Bogaard, and A. Corsini

Abstract. Changes in soil water content, groundwater flow and a rise in pore water pressure are well-known causal or triggering factors for hillslope instability. Rainfall and snowmelt are generally assumed as the main sources of groundwater recharge. This assumption neglects the role of deep water inflow in highly tectonized areas, a factor that can influence long-term pore-pressure regimes and play a role on local slope instability.

This paper aims to assess the origin of groundwater in the Ca' Lita landslide (northern Italian Apennines) and to qualify and quantify the aliquot attributable to deep water inflow. The research is essentially based on in situ monitoring and hydrochemical analyses. It involved 5 yr of continuous monitoring of groundwater levels, electrical conductivity and temperature and with groundwater sampling followed by determination of major ions (Na+, K+, Mg2+, Ca2+, Cl, HCO3, SO42−), tracers (such as Btot and Sr2+), and isotopes (δ18O, δ2H and 3H). Leaching experiments on soil samples, hydrochemical modelling and water recharge estimation were also carried out.

Results show that the groundwater balance in the Ca' Lita landslide must take into account an inflow of deep and highly mineralised Na-SO4 water (more than 9500 μS cm−1) with non-negligible amounts of Cl (up to 800 mg l−1). The chemical and isotopic fingerprint of this water points to oilfield water hosted at large depths in the Apennine chain and that uprises through a regional fault line crossing the landslide area. It recharges the aquifer hosted in the bedrock underlying the sliding surface (at a rate of about 49 000–85 700 m3 yr−1) and it also partly recharges the landslide body. In both the aquifers, the hydrochemical imprint of deep water mixed with rainfall and snowmelt water was observed. This indicates a probable influence of deep water inflow on the mobility of the Ca' Lita landslide, a finding that could be applicable to other large landslides occurring in highly tectonized areas in the northern Apennines or in other mountain chains. The paper demonstrates that hydrochemistry should, therefore, be considered as a valuable investigation method to define hydrogeological limits and the groundwater sources in hillslope and to assess groundwater flow patterns in deep-seated landslides.