Integrated high-resolution geophysical investigations as potential tools for water resource investigations in karst terrain
- Cite this article as:
- McGrath, R., Styles, P., Thomas, E. et al. Env Geol (2002) 42: 552. doi:10.1007/s00254-001-0519-2
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Karstic aquifers can be particularly vulnerable to both pollution from surface activities and large-scale dewatering from mineral winning operations. This is because of the enhanced vertical and lateral flow paths, resulting from the dissolution of carbonate species by rainfall. Often this process results in the development of voids that can range in size from several centimetres to several tens of metres. To date, groundwater vulnerability maps for England and Wales, including karst areas, have been produced using a methodology that does not consider the presence of karst features. The uncertainties that are presented by the potential for pollution by the presence of water-carrying conduits in karst areas, where there are proposed or existing limestone quarries, require new techniques for detecting and delineating underground cave systems. In order for any mapping technique to provide an acceptable assessment of vulnerability, the location and spatial distribution of high permeability flow paths need to be established. Of the available geophysics techniques that may allow for the identification of such features, microgravity and resistivity imaging are likely to be the most successful. Microgravity surveying has the potential to identify the presence and location of such voids, and with the integration of electrical tomographic work, can provide 'targets' for the location of monitoring boreholes. Whilst these techniques are intensive and may not be cost effective on a regional scale, they do have the potential to provide high-resolution data over smaller areas, which would be invaluable to any site or area-specific assessment of vulnerability.