Is the water still hot? Sustainability and the thermal springs at Bath, England
Published:January 01, 2002
T. C. Atkinson, R. M. Davison, 2002. "Is the water still hot? Sustainability and the thermal springs at Bath, England", Sustainable Groundwater Development, K. M. Hiscock, M. O. Rivett, R. M. Davison
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The hot springs at Bath are the largest natural thermal source in Britain. Sustainable use of the waters for a spa requires maintenance of their temperature and flow rate. Together with smaller springs at Hotwells, Bristol, they form the outflow from a regional thermal aquifer that occurs where the Carboniferous Limestone is buried at depths >2.7 km in the Bristol-Bath structural basin. The aquifer is recharged via limestone outcrops forming the south and west portions of the basin rim. Current knowledge of the basin's structure is reviewed, and important uncertainties identified concerning the hydrogeological role of thrust faults which may cut the limestone at depth. A simple numerical model is used to determine the possible influence of thrusts upon groundwater flow within the thermal aquifer. Comparison of the modelled flow patterns with geochemical data and structure contours eliminates the hypothesis that thrusts completely disrupt the continuity of the aquifer. The most successful model is used to simulate the possible impact of dewatering by large quarries at the limestone outcrops north and south of Bath. Substantial reductions in modelled flow at Bath result from proposed dewatering in the eastern Mendips, although the steady-state approach adopted has severe limitations in that it does not take account of the incremental staging of actual dewatering, nor allow for partial restitution of groundwater levels. The geological uncertainties highlighted by the modelling could be addressed by future research into the effect of thrusts on the continuity of the Carboniferous Limestone. More refined modelling to predict the timing of possible impacts of quarry dewatering will require measurements of the storativity of the thermal aquifer.
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Sustainable Groundwater Development
Sustainable development of groundwater resources is a key environmental and social issue for the future. To manage groundwater resources efficiently it is necessary to include protection of springs, river flows and water levels dependent on groundwater discharges, while concurrently maintaining abstractions for water supply and economic benefit. Obtaining this balance between human and environmental needs, and protecting valuable groundwater resources from over-exploitation and pollution, presents a challenge to hydrogeologists that is reflected in the approaches and case studies contained in this volume.
This volume should be of interest to researchers, regulators and practitioners in hydrogeology as well as postgraduate students following courses in hydrogeology, water resources engineering and environmental management.