Use and protection of karst water sources

This course is part of the programme
Karstology (Third Cycle)

Objectives and competences

The students understands the importance of karst water resources for water supply and the high vulnerability of karst aquifers. They learn about the meaning and characteristics of hydrogeological research, which is a prerequisite for the proper utilization of water resources. They learn the basic methods for vulnerability mapping and risk contamination. They are able to self-evaluate, interpret and present the results obtained.




Karst aquifers are important sources of water supply. Approximately 25% of world population drinks karst water, and according to some experts this share will increase to 80% until 2025. In Slovenia this share is 50%. On the other hand, karst is a very vulnerable environment endangered by various human activities, which can result in a pollution of water sources. Water from the surface infiltrates fast in the underground and flows along well permeable karst channels and fissures. In short period harmful substances in water can spread in broader area and cause a decrease of karst water quality. A part of water can be stored in less permeable zones for longer time, which means a long-lasting pollution. Therefore karst is very vulnerable and its protection should be based on a good understanding of the characteristics of karst and its functioning. For the researchers and managers these specific characteristics of karst represent a great challenge in the planning of human activities on karst. They need some basic knowledge about karst hydrology, as well as some additional expertise.

Intended learning outcomes

Student knows different types of karst aquifers, their characteristics and importance for the water supply. He becomes familiar with the researches for water supply and different types of captures, with vulnerability of karst aquifers and different sources of pollution. He understands general characteristics of the transport of harmful substances in karst water systems. He is able to combine different factors of vulnerability and hazard into a risk analysis. Student becomes familiar with the legislation in the field of water protection. He understands the state-of-the-art and possible future scenarios of exploitation and protection of karst water resources in Slovenia and abroad.


• Bakalowicz, M., 2005: Karst groundwater: a challenge for new resource.- Hydrogeology Journal, 13, 148-160.
• Drew, D. & H. Hoetzl, (Eds) 1999: Karst Hydrogeology and Human Activities.- A.A. Balkema, 322 pp, Rotterdam, Brookfield
• Ford, D.C. & P. Williams, 2007. Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 562 pp
• Goldscheider, N. & D. Drew, 2007: Methods in Karst Hydrogeology.- International Contributions to Hydrogeology, Taylor & Francis, London, 276 pp.
• White, W.B., 1988: Geomorphology and hydrology of karst terrains.- Oxford University Press, New York, ix, 464 pp.
• Zwahlen, F. (Ed.), 2004: COST Action 620 Vulnerability and risk mapping for the protection of carbonate (karst) aquifers. Final report.- European Commission, Directorate-General for Research, 297 pp, Brussels.


Oral examination 100%.

Lecturer's references

Adjunct Professor of Karstology


RAVBAR, Nataša, PETRIČ, Metka, BLATNIK, Matej, ŠVARA, Astrid. A multi-methodological approach to create improved indicators for the adequate karst water source protection. Ecological indicators : integrating monitoring, assessment and management, ISSN 1470-160X, July 2021, vol. 126, 14 str., ilustr., doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.107693. [COBISS.SI-ID 61336323]

KOVAČIČ, Gregor, PETRIČ, Metka, RAVBAR, Nataša. Evaluation and Qualification of the Effects of Climate and Vegetation Cover Change on Karst Water Sources : Case Studies of Two Springs in South-Western Slovenia. Water, ISSN 2073-4441, 2020, letn. 12, št. 3087, str. 1-20, ilustr., doi: 10.3390/w12113087. [COBISS.SI-ID 35802883]

VIŽINTIN, Goran, RAVBAR, Nataša, JANEŽ, Jože, KOREN, Eva, JANEŽ, Naško, ZINI, Luca, TREU, Francesco, PETRIČ, Metka. Integration of models of various types of aquifers for water quality management in the transboundary area of the Soča/Isonzo river basin (Slovenia/Italy). Science of the total environment, ISSN 0048-9697, 1. Apr. 2018, vol. 619/620, str. 1214-1225., doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.017. [COBISS.SI-ID 1712479]

TURPAUD, Philippe, ZINI, Luca, RAVBAR, Nataša, CUCCHI, Franco, PETRIČ, Metka, URBANC, Janko. Development of a protocol for the karst water source protection zoning: application to the Classical Karst Region (NE Italy and SW Slovenia). Water resources management, ISSN 0920-4741, 16 str., Online First, doi: 10.1007/s11269-017-1882-4. [COBISS.SI-ID 2692949]

KOIT, Oliver, RAVBAR, Nataša, MARANDI, Andres, TERASMAA, Jaanus. Threshold-controlled three-stage hydraulic behaviour of a mantled shallow carbonate aquifer (Tuhala karst area, North Estonia) = Določanje mejnih vre dnosti tristopenjskega hidravličnega obnašanja pokritega plitvega karbonatnega vodonosnika (Tuhalski kras, severna Estonija). Acta carsologica, ISSN 0583-6050. [Tiskana izd.], 2017, letn. 46, št. 2/3, str. 265-282, ilustr., doi: 10.3986/ac.v46i2-3.4951. [COBISS.SI-ID 42591277]