Karst Aquifer Resources availability and quality in the Mediterranean Area (KARMA)

  • Contact:

    Prof. Dr. Nico Goldscheider

  • Funding:

    Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) im Rahmen des Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA)

  • Partner:

    KIT (Koordinator), Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), University of Malaga, University of Montpellier, University of Rome, American University Beirut, Ecole National d’Ingénieurs de Tunis (ENIT)

  • Startdate:

    September 2019

  • Enddate:

    August 2022

Project description

The overall objective of the KARMA project is to achieve substantial progress in the hydrogeological understanding and sustainable management of karst groundwater resources in the Mediterranean in terms of water availability and quality. Karst aquifers contribute to freshwater supplies in most Mediterranean countries. Many cities are supplied by karst water, e.g. Rome, Vienna, Montpellier and Beirut (Kresic and Stevanovic 2010). Karst carbonate rocks are widespread in Mediterranean countries and account for 21.6% of the European land area (Chen et al. 2017). These land surfaces largely correspond to the new formation areas of karst aquifers, which are often connected over large areas and are highly susceptible to pollution due to their hydraulic properties, such as fast and turbulent flow in a network of pipes, and often have highly variable spring discharge and water quality (Hartmann et al. 2014). Therefore, karst systems require specific investigation methods and management tools across all scales (Goldscheider and Drew 2007), which will be further developed in this project.

At the scale of the whole region, the main objective is to produce the first consistent and detailed karst aquifer map and database for the Mediterranean (MEDKAM). MEDKAM will provide more detailed information on aquifer types, recharge, vulnerability to pollution and groundwater-dependent ecosystems, thus enabling further analysis, e.g. of flood storage and water stress under conditions of global change.

On the catchment or aquifer scale, transferable modelling tools for better prediction of climate change impacts and for informed water management decisions will be further developed and compared. Vulnerability maps will also be developed as tools for protecting groundwater quality. These tools will be tested in five study areas distributed throughout the Mediterranean region. Hydrological monitoring, isotope studies and labelling experiments will be carried out to achieve a better hydrogeological understanding and provide data for the calibration and validation of models and vulnerability maps. At the scale of individual sources, the aim is to develop monitoring and early warning systems (EWS) for groundwater pollution, focusing on short-term contamination events, but also analysing longer-term fluctuations or trends.

Preliminary karst map of the Mediterranean region (detail from WOKAM, Chen et al. 2017) with location of the five study areas. The research is carried out on three scales: (i) entire Mediterranean region; (ii) aquifers / catchment areas; (iii) selected karst springs.

The main objectives of the KIT subproject are (i) project coordination, including communication, dissemination, and exploitation of results; (ii) the lead generation of the Mediterranean Karst Aquifer Map and Database, in close cooperation with all project partners; (iii) the performance of marking experiments in selected test areas, for the delineation of spring catchment areas, for the validation of vulnerability maps, and for the characterization of contaminant transport in groundwater; (iv) conceptual and practical participation in the establishment of monitoring and early warning systems to control groundwater quality and possible contamination events; (v) further development and application of artificial neural networks as a component of early warning systems and prognosis tools for the impact of hydrological extremes.