Characterization of the vadose flow and its influence on the functioning of karst springs: Case study of the karst system near Postojna, Slovenia
In three selected drips in the Postojna cave in SWw Slovenia and in the nearby Korentan spring, which in general belongs to the same karst aquifer, the discharge and electrical conductivity were measured at 15-minute intervals. Simultaneously, the meteorological parameters in Postojna were measured and the effective infiltration was assessed. The data obtained in the period of one hydrological year, 2003–2004, was compared in order to study the influence of the vadose flow on the characteristics of groundwater flow in a karst system and on the functioning of a karst spring. The highest discharges of the Korentan spring are the result of the inflow of water through a hierarchy of fissures of various permeabilities within the vadose zone, but the contribution of stored water from low-permeability zones is especially important. One of our most significant findings is that in the conditions of high saturation of the vadose zone, the network of small fissures is hydraulically connected, which enables an integral reaction of the system to the pressure pulse induced by infiltrated precipitation. On the other hand, a detailed comparison of effective infiltration and discharge indicates that in dry periods with a lower saturation of the vadose zone, the infiltrated precipitation is mainly stored in the system and only the most permeable fissures enable a rapid transfer of the recharge impulses toward the spring. Data on measured discharge and conductivity were additionally compared in order to study the complex conditions of the actual mass flow of water through the system.
Key words: karst aquifer, vadose zone, Postojna Cave, Korentan spring, Slovenia
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