Jump to Main Content
River–groundwater connectivity in a karst system, Wellington, New South Wales, Australia
- Keshavarzi, Mohammadreza, Baker, Andy, Kelly, Bryce F. J., Andersen, Martin S.
- Hydrogeology journal 2017 v.25 no.2 pp. 557-574
- alluvium, aquifers, caves, electrical resistance, geophysics, groundwater, hydrograph, image analysis, karsts, rain, rivers, surface water, surveys, water quality, water table, watersheds, New South Wales
- The characterization of river–aquifer connectivity in karst environments is difficult due to the presence of conduits and caves. This work demonstrates how geophysical imaging combined with hydrogeological data can improve the conceptualization of surface-water and groundwater interactions in karst terrains. The objective of this study is to understand the association between the Bell River and karst-alluvial aquifer at Wellington, Australia. River and groundwater levels were continuously monitored, and electrical resistivity imaging and water quality surveys conducted. Two-dimensional resistivity imaging mapped the transition between the alluvium and karst. This is important for highlighting the proximity of the saturated alluvial sediments to the water-filled caves and conduits. In the unsaturated zone the resistivity imaging differentiated between air- and sediment-filled karst features, and in the saturated zone it mapped the location of possible water- and sediment-filled caves. Groundwater levels are dynamic and respond quickly to changes in the river stage, implying that there is a strong hydraulic connection, and that the river is losing and recharging the adjacent aquifer. Groundwater extractions (1,370 ML, megalitres, annually) from the alluvial aquifer can cause the groundwater level to fall by as much as 1.5 m in a year. However, when the Bell River flows after significant rainfall in the upper catchment, river-leakage rapidly recharges the alluvial and karst aquifers. This work demonstrates that in complex hydrogeological settings, the combined use of geophysical imaging, hydrograph analysis and geochemical measurements provide insights on the local karst hydrology and groundwater processes, which will enable better water-resource and karst management.