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Assessment of transmission loss in a Mediterranean karstic watershed (Wadi Natuf, West Bank)

Messerschmid, Clemens, Lange, Jens, Sauter, Martin
Hydrological processes 2018 v.32 no.10 pp. 1375-1390
Cretaceous period, Mediterranean climate, altitude, aquifers, automation, bedrock, ephemeral streams, karsts, mountains, rain, rain intensity, runoff, soil science, storms, stream channels, subwatersheds, surface area, vegetation cover, winter, Mediterranean region, West Bank
Run‐off transmission loss into karstified consolidated aquifer bedrock below ephemeral streams (wadis) has rarely been described nor quantified. This study presents unique data of long‐term high‐resolution field measurements and field observations in a semiarid to subhumid Mediterranean carbonatic mountainshed. The catchment with a 103 km² surface area is subdivided into 5 subcatchments. Coupled run‐off measurements were made in the different stream sections (reaches), and transmission loss calculated from differences in discharge. Rainfall and run‐off observations from 9 automated precipitation gauging stations and 5 pressure transducers for automatic water level recording are complemented by manual measurements during 34 run‐off events covering a total measurement period of 8 consecutive years. Run‐off generation is strongly event based depending on rainfall intensities and depths. Both, run‐off generation and transmission losses are related to spatial patterns of bedrock lithologies (and hydrostratigraphy). Transmission losses range between 62% and 80% of generated run‐off, with most of the smaller events showing 100% transmission loss. Therefore, although event run‐off coefficients in the mountains can reach up to 22%, only 0.11% of total annual precipitation leaves the catchment as run‐off. Most run‐off infiltrates directly into the regional karst aquifers (Upper Cretaceous carbonate series), with transmission loss intensities of up to 40 mm/h below the stream channels. The factors determining run‐off—such as geology, pedology, vegetation cover and land use, relief and morphology, the semiarid to subhumid Mediterranean climate with a strong elevation gradient, and the patchiness of individual storm events distributed over the winter seasons—as well as the lithology and epikarst features of the bedrock are all characteristic for larger areas in the Mediterranean region. Therefore, we expect that our findings can be generalized to a large extent.