EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Predicting preferential flow and water table fluctuations in karst systems using film-flow theory and source-responsive models

Torsten Noffz1, Jannes Kordilla1, Alireza Kavousi2, Thomas Reimann2, Martin Sauter1, and Rudolf Liedl2
Torsten Noffz et al.
  • 1University of Göttingen, Dept. Applied Geology, Germany
  • 2TU Dresden, Institute of Groundwater Management, Germany

The locally focused dissolution of the rock material (e.g., below dolines and dry valleys) in karst systems and in general percolating clusters of fractures in consolidated aquifer systems trigger the development of preferential flow paths in the vadose zone. Rainfall events may initiate rapid mass fluxes via macropores and fractures (e.g., as gravitationally-driven films) that lead to source-responsive water table fluctuations and comparably short residence times within the vadose zone. The degree of partitioning into a slow diffuse infiltration component and a rapid localized part depends, amongst others, on the hydraulic interaction of porous matrix and fracture domain as well as the geometrical characteristics of the fracture systems (e.g., persistence, connectivity) that are often difficult to obtain or unknown under most field conditions. Given their importance in water-resource management, specifically in arid and semi-arid regions (e.g., Mediterranean), it is desirable to recover such infiltration dynamics in porous-fractured systems with physically-based yet not overparameterized models. Here, we simulate water table fluctuations in a karst catchment in southwest Germany (Gallusquelle) using a source-responsive film flow model based on borehole and precipitation data. The model takes into account interfacial connectivity between slow and fast domain as well as phreatic zone discharge via classical recession analysis. This case study shows the potential importance of preferential flows while modeling water table responses in karst systems and recognizes the need for formulations other than those applied for a diffuse bulk fractured domain where infiltration patterns are assumed to be homogeneous without formation of infiltration instabilities along preferential pathways.

How to cite: Noffz, T., Kordilla, J., Kavousi, A., Reimann, T., Sauter, M., and Liedl, R.: Predicting preferential flow and water table fluctuations in karst systems using film-flow theory and source-responsive models, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14723,, 2021.