The Groundwater Project

Karst: Environment and Management of Aquifers

karst environment and management of aquifers COVER
Publication year: 2024
Number of pages: 300



Zoran Stevanović
John Gunn
Nico Goldscheider
Nataša Ravbar

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Released:8 June 2024


Karst comprises complex systems of soluble rocks and water forming a surface and underground environment with rich but vulnerable aquifer systems that produce the world’s largest proportion of pristine water. The interactions of soluble rocks and water create landscapes and subsurface forms that are not found in any other rock or aquifer. These features range from springs that discharge groundwater that forms large rivers to arid or high-altitude terrains without surface water—but with abundant groundwater reserves at great depth that are difficult to access.

Karst is of global importance as a source of potable water. Nearly one billion people rely on karst for health, sanitation, food production, and economic development. However, karst’s heterogeneity and anisotropy combine to create highly dynamic water regimes rendering the groundwater system sensitive to a changing climate and vulnerable to pollution. These topics are important to water managers and decision makers.

In addition to these important topics, the authors describe the history of karstology and provide a comprehensive explanation of surface and subsurface forms of karst and the natural forces that shape it.

As a practical guide, the book includes solved exercises, questions with answers, and supplemental material which presents further examples, visualizations, and theories. The book is richly illustrated and includes more than 100 photographs of karst landscapes and features from around the world.

As an introduction to karst, this book is written for a broad audience that includes readers without prior knowledge of groundwater science, but will be appreciated by students and professionals working in karst areas. Readers will emerge with a comprehensive understanding of karst and why engineering is becoming increasingly important to defend these critical hydrogeological features.

Interview with the Authors




2.1 History of Research

2.2 Karstification and Karst Distribution

2.2.1 Rock solubility and deformation
2.2.2 Karst classifications and typology
2.2.3 Distribution of karstifiable rocks

2.3 Karst on and Beneath the Earth’s Surface

2.3.1 Driving forces – Epigene and hypogene karst
2.3.2 Surface karst landforms
2.3.3 Underground karst landforms


3.1 Karst Aquifer Distribution and Boundary Conditions

3.2 Recharge in Karst

3.3 Aquifer Discharge and Regime

3.3.1 Karst springs
3.3.2 Discharge regime of karst aquifers
3.3.3 Subsurface drainage
3.3.4 Capturing karst springs and tapping karst aquifers

3.4 Groundwater Chemistry and Quality

3.4.1 Intrinsic hydrochemical composition of karst groundwater
3.4.2 Overview of parameters and processes


4.1 Importance of Karst Aquifers

4.2 Water Resources Development

4.2.1 Karst aquifer’s water budget and resources assessment
4.2.2 Karst water resources availability and utilization

4.3 Karst Water Under Threat

4.3.1 Over extraction
4.3.2 Vulnerability to pollution and contamination of karst
4.3.3 Climate changes impacts
4.3.4 Natural and anthropogenic hazards

4.4 Toward Sustainability

4.4.1 Sustainable water uses and monitoring
4.4.2 Engineering control of surface and groundwater in karst terrain
4.4.3 Preventive protection of karst aquifers
4.4.4 Land use adaptation and remediation
4.4.5 Karst groundwater dependent ecosystems
4.4.6 Karst geoheritage: Nationally and internationally protected karst areas and features


5.1 Web Sites


BOX 1 Karst Terminology

BOX 2 The Origin and Meaning of the Word Karst

BOX 3 Earth’s Largest Karst System in an Orogenic Belt

BOX 4 Examples of Different Karst Settings

BOX 5 An Example of Karst Landform and Drainage Evolution

BOX 6 Turloughs: Closed Depressions with Intermittent Lakes

BOX 7 Turbulent Flow and Increased Turbidity of Spring Water

BOX 8 Early Theories About Karst Aquifers

BOX 9 Hydraulic Connection Between Two Karst Catchments and Their Springs

BOX 10 Artesian Karst Aquifers

BOX 11 Examples of Water Tracing Using Different Types of Injection Points

BOX 12 Tracing Tests in the Dinaric Karst

BOX 13 Evaluation of Tracer Breakthrough Curves

BOX 14 Recharge in Different Settings

BOX 15 Examples of Different Karst Spring Types

BOX 16 The Largest Springs in the World

BOX 17 Discharge Coefficients and Groundwater Volumes

BOX 18 Spring Capture Structures Adapted to Local Hydrogeology

BOX 19 Pumping Test in Variable Flow Conditions

BOX 20 Water Shortage in Karst

BOX 21 Vienna Waterworks: Engineering Masterpiece of the Nineteenth Century (Ce)

BOX 22 Measuring or Estimating the Main Water Budget Elements

BOX 23 General Water Budget and Global Rate of Utilization of Karst Aquifers

BOX 24 Why Appropriate Hydrogeologic Knowledge Should Be Considered in Karst Aquifers

BOX 25 Long Term Forecasting of a Karst Spring’s Discharge

BOX 26 Importance of Continuous Monitoring in Karst

BOX 27 One of The Largest Successful Projects in Highly Karstified Terrains

BOX 28 Lez: An Engineering Compromise Between Water Demands and Ecology

BOX 29 A Discrepancy in Current Approaches to Protecting Karst Water Sources

BOX 30 Classifying Subterranean Fauna

BOX 31 Cave and Karst Geoheritage Protection in the United Kingdom

BOX 32 Lists of Internationally Designated Protected Areas with Information on Each Area




A. Karst Landforms

B. Karst Springs

C. Humans and Karst