Digital modeling of karst aquifers—Successes, failures, and promises
Published:January 01, 2006
Arthur N. Palmer, 2006. "Digital modeling of karst aquifers—Successes, failures, and promises", Perspectives on Karst Geomorphology, Hydrology, and Geochemistry - A Tribute Volume to Derek C. Ford and William B. White, Russell S. Harmon, Carol M. Wicks
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Digital modeling of karst aquifers has had poor success for several reasons. Aquifer-wide details of karst hydraulics are poorly known. Nearly all numerical groundwater models are designed only for laminar flow, and even when turbulent-flow conduit modules are added, it is very difficult to predict well yields, flow directions, flow velocities and contaminant transport because of the local heterogeneity of karst aquifers. Nevertheless, there are several benefits from attempting to design digital karst models. By comparing the output from idealized models with actual field observations, the behavior of real aquifers can be better understood. Models of idealized conduit systems, designed to investigate theoretical hydraulic behavior, can provide insight into how these systems function in real aquifers. Most importantly, in attempting to design a digital model, one is forced to examine the detailed hydraulics of karst aquifers and to recognize the kinds of field data that are necessary to understand them. The promise of karst modeling is not in prediction, but in encouraging modelers to expand their understanding of karst aquifer behavior.