Periodic Variation in Karst Stream Losses

by C. Warren Campbell,
Mohamed Abd El Latif,
Larry Foster,

Abstract: A cave taking water from an ephemeral stream periodically reroutes surface and subsurface drainage because of a plug that forms 10 m below the main entrance to the cave. The plug of sand, gravel, sticks, and logs formed in the middle level of the cave between 1980 and the present. Part of the plug was removed for access to a lower level of the cave. Another part of the plug was removed for grain-size analyses. Estimates of minimum flow rates in the passages were obtained from particle size analyses and the Shields diagram. The 1-year, 2-year, and 20-year floods and particle sizes that could be transported by these floods were estimated. The size of rocks seen in the cave's middle level passage could have been moved by the computed 2-year flood if the passage carried all of the flow. Based on these observations and analyses, a conceptual model of the plugging and unplugging of the passage is presented. This study is applicable to stream hydrologic forecasting, water well development, wellhead protection, and pollution transport in karst areas.

Subject Headings: Caves | Floods | Water pollution | Rivers and streams | Subsurface drainage | Particle size distribution

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