Variability in Groundwater Flow and Chemistry in the Houzhai Karst Basin, Guizhou Province, China

Joshua M. Barna, Alan E. Fryar, Le Cao, Benjamin J. Currens, Tao Peng, Chen Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Understanding how karst aquifers store and transmit water and contaminants is an ongoing problem in hydro-geology. Multiple flow paths and recharge heterogeneity contribute to the complexity of these systems. This study explored karst-conduit connectivity and water-chemistry variability within the Houzhai catchment in Guizhou Province, China. Artificial tracer tests were conducted during both the monsoon and dry seasons to understand temporal variability in connectivity and water velocity between karst features. Multiple flow paths through the catchment were activated during the monsoon season and partially abandoned during the dry season. Additionally, gradient reversals during monsoonal high-flow events and as a result of pumping were observed. Synoptic water samples from several karst features taken during both monsoon and dry seasons elucidated spatial and temporal variability within the catchment. Water residence time was generally longer during the dry season, and flow within the Houzhai catchment was determined to be temporally dependent. Time-series sampling at the outlet spring following a monsoonal storm event captured chemical variability and identified multiple flow paths. Overall, this study refines widely applicable methods for studying karst systems to this catchment and provides a foundation for future studies in similar settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-289
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental and Engineering Geoscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks go to Andrea Erhardt and Junfeng Zhu for helping to shape the direction of this project. Laboratory assistance was provided by Jordan Munizzi, Andrea Conner, and Zhikang Wang. The field support of Driver Song, Guanru Zhang, Qianyun Cheng, Sarah Buckerfield, Qiangshan Gao, Xuemei Liu, and Yang Changan was invaluable. Funding for this project was provided through the University of Kentucky Ferm and Brown McFarlan funds, the University of Kentucky Confucius Institute, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences through the Opening Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry (SK- LEG2016903). Three anonymous reviewers provided thoughtful comments that improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Geological Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • China
  • Dye Trace
  • Geochemistry
  • Hydrogeology
  • Key Terms: Karst
  • Stable Isotope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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