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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 18 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Calibration of a semi-distributed lumped karst system model and analysis of its sensitivity to climate conditions: the example of the Qachqouch karst spring (Lebanon)

Emmanuel Dubois1, Joanna Doummar2, Séverin Pistre3, and Marie Larocque1 Emmanuel Dubois et al.
  • 1Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences de la Terre et de l'atmosphère, Pavillon Président-Kennedy, local PK-6151 C. P. 8888, Succursale Centre-Ville Montréal (Québec), H3C 3P8, Canada
  • 2Department of Geology, American University of Beirut, P.O. Box 11‑0236/26, Beirut, Lebanon
  • 3HSM, Univ. Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, 300, avenue du Professeur Emile Jeanbrau 34000 Montpellier, France

Abstract. Flow in complex karst aquifers is challenging to conceptualize, therefore to model for better management practices, especially in poorly investigated areas, in semi-arid climates, and under changing climatic conditions. The objective of this work is to propose a calibration approach based on time-series analyses for a karst aquifer and to assess the impact of changing climate conditions on the spring discharge. Based on more than three years of high-resolution continuous monitoring, a semi-distributed lumped model was calibrated and validated for the Qachqouch karst spring, north of Beirut (Lebanon). Time-series analyses and decomposition of spring hydrographs revealed that the system has a high regulatory function, with considerable storage capacity providing stable flow (minimum flow of 0.2 m3/s) during the dry season, and with flow rates exceeding 10 m3/s during the wet season, similar to other karst aquifers in the region. Based on this detailed understanding of the hydrodynamics of the system, the model geometry and parameters were validated. Three linear reservoirs were implemented to reproduce the combined contribution of the different flow components of the system. A satisfactory simulation (Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient = 0.72) of measured spring flow rates was obtained after calibration. Climate change conditions (+1 to +3 °C warming, −10 to −30 % less precipitation annually, and intensification of rain events) were added to a baseline climatic year to produce scenarios of expected spring flow responses. Results show that the Qachqouch karst aquifer is sensitive to decreasing rainfall, which is associated with more pronounced recessions, with flow rates decreasing by 34 % and 1-month longer dry periods. Because of the limited influence of snow on the spring flow rate, a warming climate has less impact on spring flow conditions than a reduction in precipitation. Although the model shows that increasing rainfall intensity induces larger floods, recessions and shorter low flow periods, the real impact of high-intensity precipitation events remains uncertain, since the model does not account for complex unsaturated and epikarst processes. This work shows that calibrating a semi-distributed lumped model using time series analysis can be an efficient approach to improve simulations of complex karst aquifers, thus providing useful models for long-term sustainable water management.

Emmanuel Dubois et al.

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Emmanuel Dubois et al.

Emmanuel Dubois et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The simulation of flow in a karst aquifer in a Mediterranean region using a semi-distributed linear reservoir model (geometry and parameterization) is calibrated and validated based on the analysis of high resolution time-series. The model is used to predict the effect of climatic variation. Although the spring is highly sensitive to rainfall variations, it is also resilient to warming temperature. Finally, this integrated conceptual method is reproducible to address karst in semi-arid regions.
The simulation of flow in a karst aquifer in a Mediterranean region using a semi-distributed...