Articles | Volume 17, issue 12
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 4729–4742, 2013
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 4729–4742, 2013

Research article 03 Dec 2013

Research article | 03 Dec 2013

Influence of aquifer heterogeneity on karst hydraulics and catchment delineation employing distributive modeling approaches

S. Oehlmann1, T. Geyer1, T. Licha1, and S. Birk2 S. Oehlmann et al.
  • 1Geoscience Center, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • 2Institute for Earth Sciences, University of Graz, Graz, Austria

Abstract. Due to their heterogeneous nature, karst aquifers pose a major challenge for hydrogeological investigations. Important procedures like the delineation of catchment areas for springs are hindered by the unknown locations and hydraulic properties of highly conductive karstic zones.

In this work numerical modeling was employed as a tool in delineating catchment areas of several springs within a karst area in southwestern Germany. For this purpose, different distributive modeling approaches were implemented in the finite element simulation software Comsol Multiphysics®. The investigation focuses on the question to which degree the effect of karstification has to be taken into account for accurately simulating the hydraulic head distribution and the observed spring discharges.

The results reveal that the representation of heterogeneities has a large influence on the delineation of the catchment areas. Not only the location of highly conductive elements but also their geometries play a major role for the resulting hydraulic head distribution and thus for catchment area delineation. The size distribution of the karst conduits derived from the numerical models agrees with knowledge from karst genesis. It was thus shown that numerical modeling is a useful tool for catchment delineation in karst aquifers based on results from different field observations.