Determining the directions and characteristics of underground water flow in karst for the purpose of traffic routes construction: the case of the new Divača-Koper railway line (SW Slovenia)

  • Metka Petrič Karst Research Institute at ZRC SAZU and UNESCO Chair on Karst Education, University of Nova Gorica
  • Nataša Ravbar Karst Research Institute at ZRC SAZU and UNESCO Chair on Karst Education, University of Nova Gorica
  • Luca Zini Department of Mathematics and Earth Sciences, University of Trieste
  • Chiara Calligaris Department of Mathematics and Earth Sciences, University of Trieste
  • Riccardo Corazzi Caving club Commissione Grotte "E.Boegan" - Società Alpina delle Giulie CAI Trieste
  • Zdenka Žitko Speleological Association of Slovenia
  • Marco Restaino Caving club Società Adriatica di Speleologia
  • Martin Knez Karst Research Institute at ZRC SAZU and UNESCO Chair on Karst Education, University of Nova Gorica
Keywords: karst water, railway route, phreatic zone, tracer test, active cave streams, Classical Karst


The new railway line between Divača and Koper/Capodistria in south-western Slovenia is being built, a part of which crosses the southern outskirts of the Classical Karst plateaux. It will run through two tunnels, the northern tunnel T1 (6.7 km long) and the southern T2 (6 km long), which partially cross karst aquifer system. A multi-tracer test with injections of fluorescent dyes uranine and naphthionate, bypassing the karst vadose zone, was carried out to define the directions and dynamics of the underground water flow. The main goals were better understanding of the complex hydrogeological conditions in the area and assessment of possible environmental impacts on the nearby water sources. With tracing of uranine injected into a nearby cave stream, the direction of flow from the northern T1 tunnel mainly towards the Reka-Timavo aquifer system and further towards the Timava/Timavo springs was proved. The peak velocities, as determined from the peaks of the tracer breakthrough curves, range from 29 m/h to 36 m/h. Through the wider and well-connected conduits of the Reka-Timavo system, the peak velocities can reach up to 88 m/h. The recovery of uranine in an intermediate cave, i.e., Jama 1 v Kanjaducah, amounted to approximately 74 %. The northern section of the southern T2 tunnel is a part of a wider bifurcation zone between the Osapska Reka and the Boljunec/Bagnoli springs, where peak flow velocities between 10 and 13 m/h have been determined by tracing of naphthionate injected into a borehole located in the line of the planned tunnel. It has been estimated that about 25 % of the injected naphthionate flew out through the Osapska Reka spring and about 5 % through the Boljunec/ Bagnoli springs. Based on this research, proper monitoring of any potential negative impacts of the new railway line will be made possible. The study presents an approach to better planning of hazard control of traffic routes in complex and highly karstified rock settings.


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How to Cite
Petrič M, Ravbar N, Zini L, Calligaris C, Corazzi R, Žitko Z, Restaino M, Knez M. Determining the directions and characteristics of underground water flow in karst for the purpose of traffic routes construction: the case of the new Divača-Koper railway line (SW Slovenia). AC [Internet]. 2020Oct.6 [cited 2022Jan.24];49(1). Available from:
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