Articles | Volume 18, issue 2
Research article
27 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 27 Feb 2014

Estimating annual groundwater recharge coefficient for karst aquifers of the southern Apennines (Italy)

V. Allocca, F. Manna, and P. De Vita

Abstract. To assess the mean annual groundwater recharge of the karst aquifers in the southern Apennines (Italy), the estimation of the mean annual groundwater recharge coefficient (AGRC) was conducted by means of an integrated approach based on hydrogeological, hydrological, geomorphological, land use and soil cover analyses. Starting from the hydrological budget equation, the coefficient was conceived as the ratio between the net groundwater outflow and the precipitation minus actual evapotranspiration (P − ETR) for a karst aquifer. A large part of the southern Apennines, which is covered by a meteorological network containing 40 principal karst aquifers, was studied. Using precipitation and air temperature time series gathered through monitoring stations operating in the period 1926–2012, the mean annual P − ETR was estimated, and its distribution was modelled at a regional scale by considering the orographic barrier and rain shadow effects of the Apennine chain, as well as the altitudinal control. Four sample karst aquifers with available long spring discharge time series were identified for estimating the AGRC. The resulting values were correlated with other parameters that control groundwater recharge, such as the extension of outcropping karst rocks, morphological settings, land use and covering soil type. A multiple linear regression between the AGRC, lithology and the summit plateau and endorheic areas was found. This empirical model was used to assess the AGRC and mean annual groundwater recharge in other regional karst aquifers. The coefficient was calculated as ranging between 50 and 79%, thus being comparable with other similar estimations carried out for karst aquifers of European and Mediterranean countries. The mean annual groundwater recharge for karst aquifers of the southern Apennines was assessed by these characterizations and validated by a comparison with available groundwater outflow measurements.

These results represent a deeper understanding of an aspect of groundwater hydrology in karst aquifers which is fundamental for the formulation of appropriate management models of groundwater resources at a regional scale, also taking into account mitigation strategies for climate change impacts. Finally, the proposed hydrological characterizations are also supposed to be useful for the assessment of mean annual runoff over carbonate mountains, which is another important topic concerning water management in the southern Apennines.