Preliminary conceptual model of an Alpine carbonate aquifer (Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, Italy)
Accepted: 8 July 2016
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A hydrogeological and hydrochemical monitoring was conducted in the Pale di San Martino mountain ridge (Trento and Belluno Provinces, Italy) to build a preliminary conceptual model of the groundwater system. The model derives from a combination of new fieldwork and preexisting data provided by various public authorities. New data include geological and hydrogeological surveys, such as in situ measurements of the physical and chemical parameters, geochemical sampling and streamflow measurements. The lithologies outcropping in the area were grouped into seven hydrogeological complexes, each playing a different role in groundwater circulation. The dolomitic body of the ridges forms the main aquifer complex and is located above a terrigenous and evaporitic aquiclude. Due to this geometrical relationship, the site can be considered an isolated hydrostructure with well-defined no-flow boundaries. The main springs outcome near the aquifer-aquiclude boundary and in particular where the elevation of the contact is low and the tectonic pattern favors the drainage. Most of them have a calciumbicarbonate water composition, low temperature and low electrical conductivity, supporting the hypothesis of a fast flowing circulation in carbonate rocks and a high-altitude recharge. Seasonal streamflow measurements allowed the identification of linear springs and provided the first cumulative discharge data at the scale of the entire mountain group. The resulting model highlights a great spatial and temporal variability of the groundwater resources. Considering the geometry of the aquifer and the great seasonal variability of the discharge, it is possible to infer the absence of significant groundwater reserves at a regional scale. Thus, the hydrostructure shows a great capacity to supply water resources (mean discharge of 6 m3/s), but a low selfregulation capacity. It is necessary to consider this aspect when planning a long-term exploitation of the water resources that are used in the area for drinking purposes and hydropower generation.
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