Studying the Flow Dynamics of a Karst Aquifer System with an Equivalent Porous Medium Model

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Abstract

The modeling of groundwater flow in karst aquifers is a challenge due to the extreme heterogeneity of its hydraulic parameters and the duality in their discharge behavior, that is, rapid response of highly conductive karst conduits and delayed drainage of the low-permeability fractured matrix after recharge events. There are a number of different modeling approaches for the simulation of the karst groundwater dynamics, applicable to different aquifer as well as modeling problem types, ranging from continuum models to double continuum models to discrete and hybrid models. This study presents the application of an equivalent porous model approach (EPM, single continuum model) to construct a steady-state numerical flow model for an important karst aquifer, that is, the Western Mountain Aquifer Basin (WMAB), shared by Israel and the West-Bank, using MODFLOW2000. The WMAB was used as a catchment since it is a well-constrained catchment with well-defined recharge and discharge components and therefore allows a control on the modeling approach, a very rare opportunity for karst aquifer modeling. The model demonstrates the applicability of equivalent porous medium models for the simulation of karst systems, despite their large contrast in hydraulic conductivities. As long as the simulated saturated volume is large enough to average out the local influence of karst conduits and as long as transport velocities are not an issue, EPM models excellently simulate the observed head distribution. The model serves as a starting basis that will be used as a reference for developing a long-term dynamic model for the WMAB, starting from the pre-development period (i.e., 1940s) up to date.

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