Karst hydrogeology

Prof. Dr. P. Huggenberger, Dr. C. Butscher, Dr. A. Auckenthaler

Karst waters supply about 25 % of the global population. In Europe, a significant portion of the drinking water supply is abstracted from karst aquifers, and also in Switzerland many regions depend on karst groundwater as the only available source of fresh water. Karst groundwater is also an indispensable resource for very specific ecosystems and has an important function as feeder of rivers and lakes. Increasing impact on groundwater systems due to intensified land use by a growing population, industry and agriculture increases the human-induced pressure on this water resource. At the same time, public authorities, and also more and more citizens, accept only irreproachable drinking water.

For this reason, our research is concerned with karst water resources. We are investigating the hydrogeologic processes that affect the quantity and quality of this resource, such as groundwater recharge and flow as well as related transport of solute substances and suspended particles. Applied methods include karst groundwater modeling, 3D geological modeling and vulnerability mapping, as well as experimental methods such as tracer tests and the installation and maintenance of groundwater monitoring systems. On the basis of these methods and collected data, concepts are developed that aim at enhanced strategies for the protection of karst groundwater resources, including drinking water management, vulnerability assessment and water quality assurance.

3D geological models provide the structural background for processes involved in karst groundwater flow.

Studies have been performed specifically in the following two topics:

  • Particle transport / Microibial contamination of karstic aquifers (publication in edoc)
  • Particle transport in a karst aquifer: Natural and artificial tracer experiments with bacteria, bacteriophages and microspheres (publication in edoc)