Epikarst control on flow and storage at James Cave, VA: an analog for water resource characterization in Shenandoah Valley karst
Gerst, Jonathan Daniel
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Karst aquifers host significant water supplies but are easily contaminated because highly conductive inlets can rapidly transmit water to depth. The epikarst, which is the region of vegetation, soil, and weathered bedrock above karst aquifers, is a critical zone as it regulates the quantity and quality of recharge to the aquifer. As the epikarst exhibits complex heterogeneity, characterization at the field scale can be challenging. The objective of this thesis was to develop a model of epikarst hydrodynamics using longterm field measurements. To meet this objective, continuous hydrologic data of precipitation, speleothem drips, and an underground stream in James Cave in Pulaski County, VA, were collected to delineate seasonal recharge patterns, estimate effective recharge and catchment areas, characterize the number and permeability of flow paths, and evaluate storativity in the epikarst. Results demonstrate that after significant seasonal recharge, which occurs in the late winter and early spring, the epikarst can temporarily store a significant portion of recharge in low permeability flow paths. Effective recharge was estimated to be approximately 30% of total precipitation (2008-2009). Hydrograph recession analysis aided in delineation of flowpaths in the epikarst, including quickflow, moderate flow, and baseflow components. Hydrograph shape analysis suggests flow restrictions at two of the drip sites that may reveal spatial differences in storage capacity and retention time. Results of this work are intended to aid karst aquifer management by providing a multitechnique approach that can be used to assess seasonal patterns of recharge, quantify flowpath and storage characteristics, and delineate recharge zones.
- Masters Theses