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Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

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Engineering Geology
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/enggeo

Active sinkholes: A geomorphological impact of the Pajares Tunnels


(Cantabrian Range, NW Spain)
Pablo Valenzuela a,, Mara Jos Domnguez-Cuesta a, Mnica Melndez-Asensio b,
Montserrat Jimnez-Snchez a, Jos Antonio Senz de Santa Mara c
a
b
c

Department of Geology, University of Oviedo, C/ Jess Arias de Velasco, 33005 Oviedo, Spain
Instituto Geolgico y Minero de Espaa (Ofce of Oviedo), C/ Matemtico Pedrayes, 25, 33005 Oviedo, Spain
GEHMA Geologa y Geotecnia, S.L. C/ Prez de Ayala, 1, 3oC, 33007 Oviedo, Spain

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 30 July 2014
Received in revised form 25 June 2015
Accepted 15 July 2015
Available online 17 July 2015
Keywords:
Pajares Tunnels
Cantabrian Range
Sinkhole
Impact
Rainfallrunoff model
GIS

a b s t r a c t
Two parallel base tunnels (Pajares Tunnels) were built from 2005 to 2009 through the Cantabrian Range
(NW Spain), crossing an alternation of Paleozoic formations (shale, sandstone, quartzite and limestone)
characterized by a complex geological structure. A section of the tunnels was built 450 m depth below Alcedo
Valley (Len, N Spain). Some evidence of collapse and swallow holes have been appearing from 2007 to present
at the bottom of the valley. Although the stream was channeled in 2009 to control water inltration, the process
could not be avoided, constituting a good example of geomorphological impact caused by a base tunnel. The
management of hydrogeological, geomorphological and climatological information using a GIS allowed mapping
the affected area and estimating the mean water volume of inltration into the sinkholes, and the runoff decrease
in the Alcedo Stream after the drilling of the tunnel. Precipitation data series (19702000) and four spatial
variables (outcrops, shallow deposits, slope and vegetation) were used to create a rainfallrunoff model.
Presently, geomorphological evidence includes 4 main sinkholes (812 m long), 13 minor hollows, 7 swallow
holes and a 120 m2 area with subsidence evidence, which developed over Quaternary deposits covering karstied
limestone bedrock. These active swallow holes capture the surcial runoff of the Alcedo Stream throughout the
year. Because of that, the upper reach of the stream is isolated from the rest of the uvial network. The sudden
development and active growth of cover-collapse sinkholes is consistent with 1) the drop of the water table by
tunnel drainage after excavation, 2) the increase in percolation from surcial runoff and 3) the internal erosion
of the overlying Quaternary sediments by suffosion processes. The estimated mean water volume of inltration
into the sinkholes is close to 308,903 m3 yr1, and the Alcedo Stream runoff in the natural base level has
decreased by 35% throughout the year after the tunnel perforation. At present, the process is active and it is
expected to progress in the future.
2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
The development of cover-subsidence and cover-collapse sinkholes
constitutes the most common geohazard in karst landscapes. These
phenomena can develop naturally due to a cluster of inter-related
processes, but their increasing frequency is usually related to sudden
changes in the natural hydrogeological system induced by human
activities like water pumping, quarry de-watering or tunneling
(Newton, 1986; Tihansky, 1999; Waltham et al., 2005; Waltham,
2008; Gutirrez et al., 2014). Active sinkholes resulting from human

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: pvalenzuela@geol.uniovi.es (P. Valenzuela),
mjdominguez@geol.uniovi.es (M.J. Domnguez-Cuesta), m.melendez@igme.es
(M. Melndez-Asensio), mjimenez@geol.uniovi.es (M. Jimnez-Snchez),
joseantonio@saenzdesantamaria.es (J.A.S. de Santa Mara).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enggeo.2015.07.007
0013-7952/ 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

activity have been widely reported (e.g. Gutirrez-Santolalla et al.,


2005; Guerrero et al., 2008; Galve et al., 2012; Song et al., 2012).
Tunnels in karst areas may generate multiple engineering and environmental problems (Milanovic, 2004; Casagrande et al., 2005; Alija
et al., 2013). A tunnel works as a drain, producing a drop in the water
table on the drilled aquifers (Raposo et al., 2010). The extent of the
water table depression is conditioned by the depth of the tunnel
below the original water table, as well as the aquifer characteristics.
For this reason, tunneling usually produces hydrogeological impacts
related to the drop of water table, such as the total or seasonal drying
up of streams, springs, wells and wetlands (Vincenzi et al., 2009,
2014). This causes important damage on the environment and
conicts with the regional population, creating problems related to
drinking water supply, agriculture, tourism and other activities
(Sjolander-Lindqvist, 2005; Chiocchini and Castaldi, 2011).
Drilled from 2005 to 2009, Pajares Tunnels are framed within the
project for the Pajares Railway By-pass, which aims to replace the

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

current railway line over the Pajares Mountain Pass by a new highspeed line between Asturias and Len (NW Spain) (Fig. 1). The tunnels
cross the Cantabrian Range, a mountainous area characterized by a complex geological structure and a great lithological variety, which can be
grouped in three main kinds of Paleozoic materials (Mguez Bailo,
2005): (i) shale and shalesandstone (San Emiliano, Oville, Formigoso,
Huergas, La Vid, San Pedro, Ermita and Subhullero Fms.); (ii) sandstone
and quartzite (Herrera, Barrios, San Pedro, Oville and San Emiliano
Fms.); and (iii) calcareous materials (Lncara, La Vid, Alba, Portilla,
Santa Luca, Barcaliente and Valdeteja Fms.).
Pajares Tunnels constitute a complex underground structure with
the characteristics of the biggest high-speed railway base tunnels.
Their layout between Pola de Gordn (Len) and Telledo (Asturias)
has a NNWSSE orientation and reach a maximum depth of 1100 m.
It bridges an altitude difference of 414.6 m, showing a continuous
longitudinal 16.386 gradient descending toward the Asturian side.
The structure consists of two parallel single track tubes with a length
of 24.9 km and an interior free diameter of 8.5 m in a free circular section of 51.3 m2. Both tunnels show a separation among axis of 50 m
and are connected to each other by means of perpendicular by-pass galleries of 41.25 m long at every 400 m. Its central sector is connected to
the outside with two evacuation tunnels: Buiza intermediate access
adit (5.5 km long and 6% gradient) and Folledo intermediate access
adit (2.1 km long and 13% gradient) (Mguez Bailo, 2005; Mguez
Bailo et al., 2007). The characteristics of these tunnels comply with the
aerodynamic and safety conditions required in a high-speed railway
line. In this context, the groundwater inow into the tubes poses a serious challenge, taking into account that the railway line was designed to
allow speeds over 250 kph (Mguez Bailo, 2005).
Different drilling methods were used during the construction of
the Pajares Tunnels. The perforation of the two main tunnels was
performed through the use of TBMs (Tunnel Boring Machines). The
support of the tubes consists of high-strength concrete precast rings
with a thickness of 5060 cm. Each ring is divided in 7 segments.
Concrete with different characteristic strength (between 40 and
110 MPa) was used to fabricate the rings depending on the structural
requirements in each section of the tunnels (Segura Prez and
Martnez Daz, 2009; Arlandi Rodrguez et al., 2009). The Buiza gallery
was also drilled with a TBM, but the Folledo gallery and the by-pass
galleries were drilled by using NATM (New Austrian Tunneling
method). In those cases, different support methods were used in each
case taking into account the lithology variations (Arroyo Cedrn et al.,
2009). The complexity of the project made it necessary to divide it
into four different contracts. The southern sector of the tunnels, under
the study area, was included in the Contract 1, awarded to the Spanish
companies FOMENTO DE CONSTRUCCIONES Y CONTRATAS S.A. and
ACCIONA INFRAESTRUCTURAS S.A. In this section, the main tubes
were perforated through the use of two single shield TBMs: a NFMWirth single shield in the east tube and a Herrenknecht single shield
in the west tube (Mguez Bailo, 2005).
Apart from the aforementioned geotechnical and constructive
aspects, the construction of the Pajares Tunnels remained a major
challenge in other aspects, such as the management of the extracted
material (Ferreras Gonzlez et al., 2009; Campomanes Snchez, 2009;
Cayn Martnez et al., 2009) or the design of a pumping system and
the pumping water treatment (Arnanz Gonzlez et al., 2009; Dez
Cadavid and Luengo Troitio, 2009).
In March 2007, a section of the tunnels (within the Contract 1) was
drilled 450 m below the Alcedo Valley (Len, N Spain) (Fig. 1). In the
following summer, two sinkholes appeared at the bottom of the valley,
affecting the main stream, and another six sinkholes appeared over the
following 14 months; due to this situation, in April 2008, the Alcedo
Stream was losing 40% of its ow (43 l s1) (lvarez Dez et al., 2009).
Although the stream was channeled with concrete along a 370 m-long
section in 2009 to prevent water inltration, water loss into the underlying aquifer was not avoided. In 2010, an intense rainfall period

159

Fig. 1. Geographical location of the Alcedo Valley.

produced the ooding of the stream and the undermining and fracturing of the channel due to the development of new sinkholes. Presently,
some of these active sinkholes keep on growing and drain all the
surcial runoff from the upper catchment of the Alcedo Valley, drying
up the Alcedo Stream throughout the year.
Some hydrogeological studies before and during the perforation of
the tunnels have been undertaken, but very few hydrogeological data
have been published (lvarez Dez et al., 2009; Garrido Ruiz et al.,
2009; Arnanz Gonzlez et al., 2009). Nowadays, works continue on
the tunnels and in the Alcedo Valley, constituting a controversial issue.
The main goals of this paper are (i) the geomorphological characterization of the sinkholes developed on the Alcedo Valley and (ii) the
estimation of the mean water volume that drains into these sinkholes
and the subsequent runoff decrease in the Alcedo Stream.

2. Description of the study area


The Alcedo Valley is a small watershed (6.87 km2) located on the
southern ank of the Cantabrian Range (Sierra del Rozo, N of Len,
Spain) with an altitude ranging between 1803 and 1160 m a.s.l.
(Fig. 1). The area, characterized by continental high mountain weather,
is under pluvionival conditions with average temperatures below 10 C
and mean precipitation between 10001300 mm yr1, reaching a peak
during the winterspring period (Galn, 1990; Garrido Ruiz et al.,
2009). Most of the valley preserves its natural vegetation of beech, oak
and birch alternating with bushland and grassland. Due to its ecological
interest, this uninhabited area has been included in the UNESCO
Biosphere Reserve Alto Bernesga (Rodrguez Fernndez, 2011).

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P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

Geologically, the Alcedo Valley is located in the Cantabrian Zone


(NE Iberian Massif), the outer zone of the Variscan orogen in the
NW of Spain (Lotze, 1945; Julivert et al., 1972), and more specically
within the Somiedo Unit (Alonso et al., 2009). During the early
Cambrian-late Emsian, tectonic deformation affected the Paleozoic
rocks in the study area, giving as a result a complex structure characterized by an alternation of lithologies with very different mechanical and hydrogeological behaviors (Fig. 2). From the bottom to the
top, the geological succession consists of the following formations:
Lncara Fm. (limestone, dolomite and red limestone), Oville Fm.
(green shale, gray shale and sandstone), Barrios Fm. (quartzite),
Formigoso Fm. (black shale interbedded with sandstone), San
Pedro Fm. (red ferruginous sandstone) and La Vid Group (dolomite,
limestone, marlstone and shale) (Fig. 2). The Paleozoic bedrock is
covered by Quaternary uvialcolluvial deposits and screes derived
from the Barrios Fm. (Marqunez et al., 1990).

From a tectonic point of view, the study area is characterized by a


thin-skinned structural style with low internal deformation (Aller
et al., 2004), which essentially consists of WNWESE oriented imbricate
thrusts and their associated folds with the main detachment located
within the earlymiddle Cambrian limestone of the Lncara Fm.
(Julivert, 1971). The subsequent extensional and compressional
episodes (late Variscan and Alpine tectonics) affected the original
Variscan structure, producing thrusts inversion, folds compression and
the formation of reverse faults (Alonso and Surez Rodrguez, 1990;
Aller et al., 2004; Alonso and Rubio, 2009). Below the Alcedo Valley,
the main tectonic issue is an out-of-sequence thrust (Collado de Alcedo
thrust) (Alonso and Surez Rodrguez, 1990; Toyos et al., 2009), leading
to the development of an imbricated structure involving Lncara and
Oville Fms. (Toyos et al., 2009) (Fig. 2).
Concerning the hydrogeological setting, there are three formations
which have a key role: Lncara Fm., Barrios Fm. and San Pedro Fm.

Fig. 2. Geological map and geological section of the study area, modied from Alonso and Rubio, 2009. Location of the aquifers SA-8, SA-8b and SA-9 and the boreholes SR-10 and SR-11,
taken from lvarez Dez et al., 2009.

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

Lugeon test conducted during the project phase of the tunnels


resulted in the only hydraulic conductivity data available: in the
range of 10 8 10 6 m s 1 for Lncara limestone and in the wide
range of 10 9 10 3 m s 1 for Barrios and San Pedro sandstone
(lvarez Dez et al., 2009). However, the same authors suggest that
these data are too low and unrepresentative of the real hydrological behavior, considering fracturing, karst and alteration processes developed
into the bedrock. Therefore, three types of aquifers in the study area are
relevant for this investigation: (i) karst aquifers developed in Lncara
limestone and characterized by generalized micro-karstication;
(ii) secondary porosity aquifers related to sand-alteration of Barrios
quartzite and San Pedro sandstone due to fracturing and hydrothermal
processes; and (iii) small porous aquifers developed inside Quaternary
deposits with variable permeability values depending on their lithology
and particle size (lvarez Dez et al., 2009; Garrido Ruiz et al., 2009).
Limestone and dolomite of La Vid Group are also interested by karst
processes, but their outcrops are far away from the sinkholes area,
which make them irrelevant for this research. On a large scale, the
geometry of the aquifers in the valley bedrock is controlled by the
presence of low permeability materials and tectonic structures
which act as permeable barriers (lvarez Dez et al., 2009; Garrido
Ruiz et al., 2009) (Fig. 2).
Although all the aforementioned aquifers have a reduced storage
capacity (between 0.03 and 6.1 hm3 yr1), the groundwater resources
are used for drinking water supply and farm activities (Galn,
1990; lvarez Dez et al., 2009; Garrido Ruiz et al., 2009). Also
according to lvarez Dez et al. (2009), average annual recharge
is 130 mm yr 1 , reaching higher values in areas where there are
sandstone and quartzite outcrops.
Under natural conditions, the recharge of the aquifers depends on
the surface water inltration and the discharge takes place through
the drainage network and the existing springs (Garrido Ruiz et al.,
2009). Nowadays the natural hydrogeological conditions have been
altered in coincidence with the construction of the tunnels below
the study area. According to lvarez Dez et al. (2009), a maximum
ow rate of 520 l s 1 was measured in the southern entrance of
both tunnels on 21 March 2007 during the perforation works. Until
that moment, more than 9 km had been drilled and over half of this
length corresponded to permeable materials from 9 different aquifers. However, there is no published data about the water inow
from each aquifer into the tunnels. The same authors mention a complete drainage of Barrios and Lncara Fms. (dened by them as SA-8
and SA-9 aquifers respectively, Fig. 2) within the study area for the
period 20072008, with the exception of the northern sector of Barrios Fm. (SA-8b, Fig. 2), which does not show signicant changes in
its hydrogeological behavior. Piezometric level control carried out
from July 2006 to November 2008 in borehole SR-10, drilled into
Lancara Fm. (SA-9 aquifer, Fig. 2), shows a temporal relationship between the beginning of the tunnel perforation below the valley, the
70 m drop of the water table (within a year, from March 2007 to
March 2008) and the development of the rst eight sinkholes. According to lvarez Dez et al. (2009), Lncara limestone (SA-9 aquifer, with a storage capacity of 0.4 hm 3 yr 1) constitutes an inow
preferential zone into the tunnels, where some karst features were
observed during the perforation. Piezometric data from borehole
SR-11 (Arnanz Gonzlez et al., 2009) (Fig. 2) also show a 500 m
drop of the water table coinciding with the perforation, from 600 m
to 100120 m above the tunnel. Unfortunately, the scarce availability of quantitative hydrogeological data prior to the drilling of the
tunnels makes it impossible to accurately quantify the magnitude
of the change.
3. Material and methods
This research has been developed through two main tasks:
geomorphological analysis and GIS data management. An approach

161

to the new hydrological regime developed in the Alcedo Stream


and to the appearance of the sinkholes was also performed through
hydrogeological analysis.

3.1. Geomorphological analysis


The geomorphological analysis of the study area was carried out
through interpretation of aerial photographs and eld surveys.
The sinkholes and the other features developed in the Alcedo Valley
(swallow holes, evidence of collapse and scarps) were measured in
the eld, determining their position, length, width and depth by
using a GPS and a laser measurement device. Based on a 2011
orthophoto provided by the IGN (Instituto Geogrco Nacional
National Geographic Institute of Spain), all these features and the
channeled section of the Alcedo Stream were plotted on a 1/10,000
scale map. Geomorphological maps and aerial photos prior to 2011
do not show evidence of sinkhole in the study area. In addition, the
shallow deposits existing in the valley were represented in another
1/10,000 geomorphological map. Different data were taken over
the main deposits during eld activities in order to determine their
sedimenthological characteristics: matrixclasts ratio, sandclay
ratio, internal structures and clasts lithology, size and morphology
Data were taken according to the common methodology followed
in geomorphological eld surveys (Dackombe and Gardiner, 1983).
Both maps were digitized and analyzed by using GIS.

3.2. Hydrogeological analysis


The hydrogeological analysis of the study area included several
methodologies, aimed at characterizing the development of the sinkholes and establishing its inuence over the surcial hydrogeological
dynamics of the Alcedo Stream and its relation to the perforation
of the Pajares Tunnels. Physico-chemical parameters (temperature,
pH and conductivity) were measured in the stream and the springs
within the study area in the course of two surveys (21/04/2013 and
25/10/2013), by means of portable instruments (HANNA HI9025 pH
meter and HANNA HI9033 conductivity meter). Stream and spring
discharge measurements were performed through tracer dilution.
A sudden-injection method using sodium chloride as a tracer was
chosen (Graves, 2007). Measurements were taken between 14
18 m downstream the injection points. The same tracer was used
in a tracer test (Graves, 2007). The purpose was to establish a relationship between the sinkholes and the springs in the study area.
The inject point was located upstream the sinkholes and the measurements were taken downstream the dry reach of the Alcedo
Stream and the springs. Both experiments were performed with a
SalinoMADD device.
Moreover, ADIF (Administrador de Infraestructuras FerroviariasSpanish Railway Infrastructures Manager) and FOMENTO DE
CONSTRUCCIONES Y CONTRATAS S.A. and ACCIONA INFRAESTRUCTURAS
S.A., the contractors for the Pajares Tunnels-Contract 1, provided daily
pumping records of the water inow into the tunnels, piezometric
level records measured in boreholes SR-10 and SR-11 and information relative to the lithology and the stratigraphic formations drilled
every day during the perforation works under the Alcedo Valley.
Pumping records were corrected taking into account the cooling
water ow rate of the two TBMs used in Contract 1 (40 l s1 in Tunnel
E and 25 l s1 in Tunnel W during the drilling) and its daily operating
schedule. This made it possible to interpret the variations in the
pumped ow as variations in the water inow into the tunnels.
Piezometric data were also corrected taking into account the angle of
the boreholes and expressed in meters above sea level. A temporal
comparison was performed with all these information together with
precipitation data also provided by the contractors.

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P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

3.3. GIS data management


The use of GIS allowed not only mapping the affected area and the
main features of the phenomenon but also estimating the hydrological
behavior of the Alcedo Stream before the construction of the tunnels despite the lack of hydrogeological information over this previous period.
Data management was performed using ArcGIS 9.3 software (ESRI). The
applied process can be divided into four main steps:
3.3.1. Creation of digital data layers
Landscape characteristics which condition the surcial hydrological
behavior of the catchment were considered. Three vector data layers
were created by using GIS: outcrops, vegetation and shallow deposits.
Geological data were compiled from Alonso and Rubio (2009)
and from the Sheet n. 103 of 1/50,000 scale National Geological Map
(Alonso et al., 1991). The vegetation map created was based on
1/50,000 scale Map of Crops and Land uses of Spain 20002010
(MARM, 2009). Two Digital Terrain Models (DTM) were created:
a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) with a pixel of 10 m (built from
the topographical information provided by the National Geographic
Institute) and a Digital Slope Model (DSM), reclassied in two
categories (slope b 3 and slope 3) determined by a different
hydrogeological behavior, according to Ferrer (1993).
3.3.2. Calculation of runoff coefcients
The runoff coefcient of each cell (100 m2) was calculated for
each land category of the Alcedo Valley following the methodology
described by Fernndez Rodrguez et al. (2002), based on the USA Soil
Conservation Service equation (USDA-SCS, 1972):
C

Pd =P0 1:Pd =P0 23


Pd =P0 112

where C is the runoff coefcient, Pd is the daily precipitation and P0 is


the runoff threshold.
The P0 estimation for the different land categories was performed
based on the values tabulated by the USA Soil Conservation Service
and adapted by Ferrer (1993), taking into account the climatic and
geographic characteristics of Spain. The runoff threshold correction
coefcients and the daily precipitation values were taken from MOPU
(1990) and Ministerio de Fomento (1999).
3.3.3. Rainfall interpolation models
A rainfall database was elaborated, including monthly values,
covering a period of 31 years (19702000), with data gathered
from 10 weather stations of the AEMET (Agencia Estatal de
Meteorologa-Spanish Meteorology Agency of Spain) (Fig. 3). All of
them are located within a 21-km radius around the Alcedo Valley
at altitudes ranging from 945 to 1280 m a.s.l. The software
CORTREST under the application HIDROBAS 3.0 (Ortiz et al., 2001)
was used to ll the gaps of the data series by normal correlation.
The achieved correlation coefcients (R) were always equal or
higher than 0.79.
Monthly precipitation data series were statistically analyzed to
obtain information about the precipitation regime in the study area.
The following values were extracted: annual precipitation in each
weather station, average annual precipitation in the study area
(considering all the stations), annual precipitation of the years
with the highest and lowest precipitations for each station, monthly
precipitation of the rainiest month of the data series (taking into
account all the stations), average monthly precipitation for each
month in every station and average monthly precipitation in the
study area.
Sixteen precipitation models were generated through the interpolation of the precipitation data calculated in the previous step by using
ArcGIS 9.3: average, maximum and minimum annual precipitations,

Fig. 3. Location of the AEMET weather stations.

maximum monthly precipitation and average monthly precipitation


for each month. Taking into account the limited availability of rainfall
underlying data, geostatistical interpolation methods were discarded.
Models were calculated by using the deterministic method of Inverse
Distance Weighting (IDW) (Shepard, 1968).
3.3.4. Calculation of the volume of inltrated water
Different rainfall raster data layers (annual and monthly data) were
combined with the runoff coefcient raster data layer. Runoff coefcients were used to calculate cell-by-cell the catchment area likely to
generate surcial runoff. This made it possible to calculate the amount
of rainfall in each cell that results in surcial runoff and, consequently,
to estimate the average annual and monthly volumes of water collected
by the Alcedo watershed on its natural base level on the basis of a
31 years dataset. It was also possible to calculate the volume of water
that drains into the swallow holes, taking into account only the
catchment area of sinkholes.
4. Results
4.1. Geomorphological analysis
The 1/10,000 geomorphological map allowed carrying out a physical
and hydrogeological analysis of the Alcedo watershed and understanding the collapse and inltration phenomena, taking into account the
different surcial deposits outcropping in the Alcedo Valley (Fig. 4A).
The valley slopes are mainly covered by two types of shallow deposits: (i) extensive NE-facing active rockfall screes (0.2 km2 surface,
covering 3.4% of the catchment), derived from the erosion of quartzite
and sandstone outcrops (Barrios and San Pedro Fms.), and (ii) ranker
soils less than one meter thick, composed of angular clasts with a
sandy-organic matrix, which cover up to 75% of the watershed
(5.3 km2 surface) (Fig. 4B). In the lower part of the slopes (0.5 km2
surface, 7.6% of the catchment), these ranker soils grade into colluvial
debris deposits with sandy matrix up to one meter thick that behave
as surcial aquifers. Several landslide deposits were found in NEfacing slopes, associated with alluvial plain deposits. Also, a small
nivation moraine was mapped in the head-waters of the catchment.

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

163

Fig. 4. A. Map of shallow deposits and outcrops of the Alcedo Valley; B. Ranker soils; C. Valley polygenic deposits with a colluvial deposit (Level 1) overlying a uvial deposit (Level 2);
D. Erratic blocks on the valley polygenic deposits.

The most extensive Quaternary deposits, also formed by quartz and


shale debris (Oville and Barrios Fms.), are located in the middle
sector of the watershed, covering 0.2 km2 (2.9% of the catchment).
These heterogeneous deposits, so-called valley polygenic deposits,
mantle the valley bottom and consist of surrounded-angular
centimetricmetric quartz boulders in a matrix with signicant
clay content (90% matrix/10% boulders) (Fig. 4C, Level 1). They alternate with other beds consisting of rounded decimetric clasts in a
sandy matrix (20% matrix/80% clasts) (Fig. 4C, Level 2). The two
levels described above have colluvial and alluvial origins, respectively. Several erratic blocks with glacial striation were found over the
valley polygenic deposits, which prove a glacial inuence in its
development (Fig. 4D).
Seventeen sinkholes were mapped in the middle reach of the Alcedo
Valley (Fig. 5A and B): Eleven sinkholes are located at the bottom of the
valley, near the channeled section of the stream; the remaining six
sinkholes are located in the western slope, about 5 m above the stream
(Fig. 5A). The length of the sinkholes ranges between 1.5 and 13.1 m and
the depth between 0.8 and 5.5 m (Table 1). In general, the depressions
show subcircular edges, round shapes and cylindrical or conical proles.
The graphical representation shows that the lengths of major and minor
diameters are very similar in most cases (Fig. 6). Graphic also shows
that, in general, sinkholes with the greatest area are deeper than those
with a smaller area. At the bottom of the valley, collapses grew and
joined, with the development of large irregular sinkholes along the
stream bed. The eld surveys conducted in different dates revealed

that some sinkholes grew signicantly: sinkhole n increased its


diameter from 2 to 4.1 m in 3 months (Fig. 5C and D). A 120 m2 area surrounding the sinkholes with evidence of active subsidence (average
drop in the terrain of 30 cm) was mapped at the bottom of the
valley (Fig. 5A).
All the sinkholes developed on the Quaternary deposits previously described: uvial, colluvial and glacial deposits with signicant
clay content that cover the bottom of the valley and the western
slope. The characterization of these deposits in the eld allowed
determining the matrix clay content (2050% of the matrix), which
is higher in the materials covering the slope. However, at the bottom
of the valley, there are some beds with sandy matrix (99% sand/1%
clay), due to a greater inuence of uvial processes (Fig. 4C).
The growth of the sinkholes undermined the eastern slope and
the channeled stream, causing its fracturing in two points and the
development of minor landslides with small lateral displacement
(Fig. 5E and F).
4.2. Hydrogeological analysis
The presence of exhumed endokarst features in Lncara outcrops
suggests that there is an important karst development in Lncara
limestone. Indeed, most of the sinkholes located along the channel
level are connected with narrow karst conduits. However, not all the
sinkholes behave as ponors or swallow holes on a continuous basis.
In the course of the investigation, inltration was observed in 7 of the

164

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

Fig. 5. A. Karst features in the Alcedo Valley: ponors (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7), sinkholes (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p and q) and springs (A and B); B. Natural base level of the Alcedo Valley
and the sinkhole catchment; C. Sinkhole n (07/01/2013); D. Sinkhole n (13/04/2013); E. Fractured channel over the sinkhole j; F. Sinkholes (b, e, g, h and j), ponors (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7) and
landslide scarps in the middle section of the Alcedo Stream.

11 sinkholes mapped at the bottom of the valley. Their activity is related


to stream ow seasonal variations, so that water inltrates through
all the ponors simultaneously only during ood events. The control
carried out in the study area proved that these ponors drain all the

surcial ow, even during the maximum discharge events, drying up a


100 m channeled reach of the Alcedo Stream throughout the year
(between 277816X-4754615Y and 277673X-4754869Y, UTM 30T).
The stream discharge measurement performed upstream ponor 1

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170


Table 1
Dimensions of the sinkholes mapped in the Alcedo Valley.

a
b
c
d
e
f
g
h
i
j
k
l
m
n
o
p
q

Major diameter (m)

Minor diameter (m)

Maximum depth (m)

8.2
12.9
2.6
2.3
1.8
2.6
1.7
13.1
1.5
12.6
8.7
1.6
3.1
4.1
3.6
4.9
8.9

7.7
9.4
2
2
1
2.8
0.9
4.2
1.2
11.1
1.9
1.6
2.1
3.8
2.9
3.9
7.7

3.4
1.7
1.3
1.6
1
0.6
0.8
1.3
2.6
5.5
1.4
1.3
0.8
2.1
1.4
3
2.3

provided a ow rate of 180 l s1. The measurement was performed during the melting period (21/04/2013) and because of that data can be estimated as a maximum ow rate for this year.
Due to the development of sinkholes in the valley oor, the upper
part of the watershed (with a 3.9 km2 surface) is drained by the ponors
and isolated from the rest of the uvial network (Fig. 5B). The stream
ow is the result of the precipitation over this catchment located
upstream from the sinkholes. A signicant part of precipitation gives
the stream runoff as a result, but the other part is stored into the
aquifers present in this catchment. No stream ow contributions from
karst aquifers have been observed in this catchment. The largest aquifer
is Barrios quartzite (2.5 km2 surface), which constitutes 62.5% of the
bedrock in the watershed drained by the ponors, but the most relevant
for this research is Lncara karst aquifer, which only constitutes 1.4% of
this catchment (54,774 m2 surface) and is related to the development of
the sinkholes. However, 99.1% of the area is covered by surcial formations that condition water inltration processes. The most important are
several colluvial debris deposits that behave as surcial aquifers due to
their high sand content (95%) and cover 9.2% of the watershed drained
by the ponors (0.6 km2).
Two springs, arising from karst conduits in Lncara limestone,
supply water to the Alcedo Stream 100 m downstream of the
sinkholes area: spring A (277815X-4754669Y, UTM 30T, 1336 m a.s.l.)
and spring B (277792X-4754675Y, UTM 30T, 1339 m a.s.l.) (Fig. 5A).
Springs discharge measurements resulted in ow rates of 146.1 l s1

Fig. 6. Graphical representation of the size of the sinkholes.

165

in spring A and 26.9 l s 1 in spring B (21/04/2013). Both springs


show a seasonal behavior. Physico-chemical parameters measured at
the springs and at the stream upstream of the sinkholes area
(277696X-4754811Y, UTM 30T, 1349 m a.s.l.) are presented in
Table 2. Tracer test performed gave a negative result. Therefore, the connection between the swallow holes and the springs downstream from
the sinkholes was not proved.
The temporal comparison of hydrogeological records and
geotechnical information achieved during the works under the
Alcedo Valley (Fig. 7) shows a coincidence in time between the
beginning of the perforation of Lncara limestone in both tunnels
and the increase of the pumping rate in 250 l s 1 with respect to
the previous average rate (b 100 l s 1 ). This great water inow
conrms the presence of a relevant karst development in Lncara
limestone and its drainage due to the construction of the tunnels,
causing the drop of the piezometric levels observed in boreholes
SR-10 and SR-11. After the drilling of the Lncara limestone, the
pumping rate does not return to the previous values, maintaining
an average ow of 260 l s 1. This fact, coincident with the development of the two rst sinkholes appeared on the Alcedo Stream in
the summer of 2007, is interpreted as a result of the inltration of
surcial runoff. Precipitation in the study area over the same period
does not shows appreciable effects, causing small scale variations in
the water inow into the tunnels.
4.3. GIS modeling
The characterization of the study area through the joint analysis of
four digital layers (outcrops, shallow deposits, slope and vegetation
cover) was carried out by the use of GIS. Different categories were
dened for each variable to facilitate their combination and analysis
(Fig. 8A, B, C, and D).
In the Alcedo Valley, the predominant lithology is represented by
Barrios quartzite, which constitute 49.4% of the watershed bedrock
(3.4 km2), followed by Oville shale and sandstone that constitute
29.3% of the area (2 km2). San Pedro sandstone also shows important
outcrops totalling 4.2% of the watershed bedrock (0.3 km2). Lncara
limestone only constitutes 2.6% of the valley bedrock. All the other
formations (Formigoso Fm. and La Vid Group) constitute the remaining
14.4% of the catchment (1 km2). Taking into account that 94.1% of the
study area is covered by shallow deposits, lithology is only considered
for the modeling in the areas with bedrock outcrops. Therefore, the
outcrops map has been reclassied in two kinds of categories: low
permeability and permeable outcrops (Fig. 8A). The shallow deposit
layer was divided into 8 categories: active rockfall screes (3.4%), colluvial debris deposits (7.6%), landslide deposits (2.5%), valley polygenic
deposits (2.9%), alluvial plain deposits (0.1%), nivation moraines
(0.2%), ranker soils (where surcial deposit thickness b 1 m; 77.4%)
and bedrock outcrops (without surcial formations; 5.9%) (Fig. 8B).
A slope map was created from the reclassication of the DSM in two categories: slope b 3 and slope 3, showing that only 0.2% of the study
area has slopes under 3 (Fig. 8C). The vegetation cover layer was also
reclassied, giving as a result the denition of 6 categories: forest
(most common vegetation, covering 37% of the study area), dense bush
(14.7%), scrubland (32.3%), grass (7.8%), soil without vegetation (associated with active rockfall deposits; 3%) and rock without vegetation (associated with bedrock outcrops; 5.2%) (Fig. 8D). On the basis of the
different data layers and their classes, 34 different land categories with
their corresponding runoff coefcients were calculated (Table 3).
The completed monthly precipitation series allowed estimating the
maximum and minimum values of precipitation in the study area
considering a period of 31 years and the average annual rainfall
(1094 mm). The rainiest year is 1978, with an accumulated annual
precipitation of 1463 mm, and the least rainy year is 1986, with an accumulated annual precipitation of 764 mm. The calculation of the average
monthly precipitation in every station in the study area provided

166

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

Table 2
Physico-chemical water parameters measured at the springs A and B and at the stream.
Water parameter

T (C)
pH
Electrical conductivity (S/cm)

Stream

Spring A

Spring B

21/04/2013

25/10/2013

21/04/2013

25/10/2013

21/04/2013

25/10/2013

7.2
30

10
5.8
28.5

7.8
7.4
36

9.5
6.6
67.8

6.8
7.5
34.5

9.9
6.7
44.6

information about the rainfall distribution through the year, showing


that December and August are respectively the most and least rainy
months in the majority of the stations. December 1987 was the rainiest
month of data series, with an average monthly rainfall of 423 mm taking
in account all the stations.
The combined analysis of sixteen annual and monthly precipitation
models and the layer of runoff coefcients allowed estimating the
volume of water that is expected to inltrate into the sinkholes under
different precipitation scenarios. Moreover, rainfall modeling allowed
inferring the volume of water runoff in the Alcedo Stream natural base
level before the drilling of the tunnels and its decrease due to the
capture of the Alcedo Stream by the ponors. The mean estimated
water inltration volume is 308,903 m3 yr 1, the maximum is
409,100 m3 yr1 and the minimum is 213,477 m3 yr1 considering a
period of 31 years. A maximum monthly volume of inltration of
114,013 m 3 per month was estimated by using December 1987
data. These inltration volumes reach a peak in spring and autumn
(Fig. 9A). Considering the natural inferred hydrogeological conditions
before the perforation of the tunnels, with an 877,395 m3 volume of
yearly water runoff on the natural base level, the decrease in the Alcedo
Stream runoff is estimated at 35%. The analysis of monthly mean water
volumes shows that the ow decrease is constant throughout the year,
reaching maximum and minimum average values close to 39,600 m3 in
December and 9000 m3 in August (Fig. 9B).

5. Discussion
A joint analysis of the mapped sinkholes and subsidence evidence
together with the geological and geomorphological maps was performed. This analysis showed that all the observed features are located
in a 160 m-long section of the Alcedo Valley where the stream and the
trajectory of the west tunnel are practically overlapped. The tunnel in
this area crosses a tectonic imbricated structure composed by karstied
Lncara limestone covered by Quaternary deposits (Fig. 10). The temporal coincidence between the perforation of the tunnels 450 m under the
Alcedo Valley and the beginning of the inltration, together with the
spatial relationship between the sinkholes and the karst conduits,
suggest a close relationship between both phenomena. This relation is
supported by the increase of the water inow into the tunnels recorded
during the perforation of Lncara limestone, the consequent drop of
the water table in SR-10 and SR-11 and its correlation with the
development of the rst sinkholes in the summer of 2007 (lvarez
Dez et al., 2009). Consequently, the perforation of the tunnels induced
a generalized drainage, not only in the karst aquifer, but also in the
overlying Quaternary deposits, triggering a set of surcial and internal
erosion processes.
Water table decline caused different effects within the Quaternary
deposits and the karst aquifer: (i) the loss of buoyant support of the
supercial deposits, (ii) the increase of percolation from the supercial

Fig. 7. Temporal comparison between water inow records from both tunnels, piezometric level records from the boreholes SR-10 and SR-11, information related to the geological
formations drilled each day during the works under the Alcedo Valley and precipitation records in the area over the same period. The average level of the tunnels is of 845 m a.s.l.
The diagram about the drilled formations must be understood not as a geological cartography but as a temporal diagram of progress of the works. The hydrogeological and geotechnical
data have been provided by ADIF, FOMENTO DE CONSTRUCCIONES Y CONTRATAS S.A. and ACCIONA INFRAESTRUCTURAS S.A.

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

167

Fig. 8. Thematic maps of the Alcedo Valley. A. Outcrops; B. Shallow deposits; C. Slope; D. Vegetation cover.

runoff, and (iii) the increase of groundwater ow through the karst


conduits previously lled with water or endokarst sediments. All the
above has enhanced the internal erosion of the cover through a range
of processes designed as suffosion (Tihansky, 1999; Waltham et al.,
2005; Gutirrez et al., 2014). Suffosion consists of the downward migration of the overlying unconsolidated Quaternary deposits toward the
openings in the top of the bedrock. The result is the creation of voids
within the shallow sediments which size and growth depend on the
soil cohesive strength (Waltham et al., 2005).
The signicant amount of clay of the Quaternary sediments in the
study area suggests a cohesive behavior for these materials. Under
these conditions, suffosion process begins with the formation of
ephemeral cavities over the karst conduits which migrate upwards
by progressive roof spalling toward the surface and eventually create
small sudden collapses with sub vertical walls (Tihansky, 1999;
Waltham et al., 2005). After the collapse, sinkholes are degraded by
walls failures and small landslides, growing in size and changing
their original shape until the development of conical proles. These
degradation processes leave debris blocking the karst conduits on
their oors (Waltham et al., 2005; Gutirrez et al., 2014). Therefore,
the cylindrical and conical proles observed in the Alcedo Valley
suggest the operation of the processes described above. On this
basis, Alcedo Valley sinkholes were classied as cover-collapse sinkholes according to Tihansky (1999), Williams (2004) and Waltham
et al. (2005) classications.

Presently, in the streambed, the intermittent stream ow related to


precipitation events and the consequent oods are enhancing the
inltration and erosion processes, giving as a result the development
of great sinkholes by coalescence; where the stream was captured,
sinkholes developed active ponors on their oors. Also at the bottom
of the valley, a big area shows subsidence evidence, which can be
explained by the compaction of the Quaternary sediments and the
subsurcial erosion. This evidence sometimes precedes sinkholes
formation (Newton and Hyde, 1971). The channeled section suffered
from fracturing and undermining processes, therefore this channel
does not fulll its function.
The hydrogeological characterization performed in the Alcedo Valley
allowed understanding the new hydrological behavior of the Alcedo
Stream. On the one hand, the karst aquifer drainage and the whole
surcial ow inltration lead to the alteration of the stream hydrological regime. At present the stream has an inuent behavior and the upper
reach of the valley is isolated from the rest of the uvial network, which
constitutes a serious environmental impact. However, the absence of
hydrogeological data from before the excavation of the tunnels only
allows estimating its previous behavior and the magnitude of the change
through a rainfall-runoff modeling. On the other hand, two springs, located in Lncara limestone, supply water to the Alcedo Stream downstream
the sinkholes area. Despite the similarity between the stream inltration
ow rate measured upstream the ponor 1 (180 l s1) and the ow rate
measurement reached in both springs (146.11 + 26.9 l s1), the tracer

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P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

Table 3
Land categories and runoff coefcients calculated in the Alcedo Valley and their equivalence with the S.C.S. land categories modied by Ferrer (1993). Notes: (i) the term Hydrologic
conditions (Ferrer, 1993) refer to different characteristics of the terrain which condition its hydrologic behavior, mainly related to the development of the vegetation or the type of crop;
(ii) Straight row = vegetation following the steepest slope.
Slope%

3
b3
3
3
3
b3
b3
b3
3
3
3
b3
b3
3
3
b3
b3
3
b3
3
3
b3
3
3
3
3
3
b3
b3
b3
b3
b3
3
3

S.C.S. modied categories (Ferrer, 1993)

Land categories dened in the Alcedo Valley

Soil group

Cover type

Hydrologic condition

Shallow deposits/outcrops

Vegetation cover

Land categories

Runoff coef.

A
A
B
B
B
B
B
B
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
C
B
B
B
B
B
B
B
B
B
Imp. rock
Imp. rock
Perm. rock

Bare soil
Bare soil
Woods
Woods
Woods
Woods
Woods
Woods
Woods
Woods
Meadows
Woods
Meadows
Woods
Meadows
Woods
Meadows
Woods
Woods
Woods
Meadows
Meadows
Woods
Woods
Woods
Woods
Meadows
Woods
Woods
Woods
Meadows

Straight row
Straight row
Thick
Medium
Low-density
Thick
Medium
Low-density
Thick
Medium
Very good
Thick
Very good
Medium
Very good
Medium
Very good
Thick
Thick
Medium
Very good
Very good
Medium
Thick
Medium
Low-density
Very good
Thick
Medium
Low-density
Very good

Rockfall screes
Rockfall screes
Colluvial debris deposits
Colluvial debris deposits
Colluvial debris deposits
Colluvial debris deposits
Colluvial debris deposits
Colluvial debris deposits
Valley polygenic deposits
Valley polygenic deposits
Valley polygenic deposits
Valley polygenic deposits
Valley polygenic deposits
Alluvial plain deposits
Alluvial plain deposits
Alluvial plain deposits
Alluvial plain deposits
Landslide deposits
Landslide deposits
Landslide deposits
Landslide deposits
Landslide deposits
Nivation moraine
Ranker soils
Ranker soils
Ranker soils
Ranker soils
Ranker soils
Ranker soils
Ranker soils
Ranker soils
Low permeability outcrops
Low permeability outcrops
Permeable outcrops

Forest
Dense bush
Scrubland
Forest
Dense bush
Scrubland
Forest
Dense bush
Grass
Forest
Grass
Dense bush
Grass
Dense bush
Grass
Forest
Forest
Dense bush
Grass
Grass
Dense bush
Forest
Dense bush
Scrubland
Grass
Forest
Dense bush
Scrubland
Grass

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34

0.285
0.197
0.003
0.065
0.147
0.003
0.065
0.147
0.085
0.171
0.171
0.085
0.137
0.171
0.171
0.171
0.137
0.085
0.085
0.171
0.171
0.137
0.065
0.003
0.065
0.147
0.027
0.003
0.065
0.147
0
0.727
0.882
0.802

test performed has failed to demonstrate the connection between these


two points. Both springs (A and B) (Fig. 5A) show a seasonal behavior
and neutral or acidic pH values. Water temperature values show important seasonal variations between the two measurement dates. Low conductivity levels (ranging from 34.5 to 67.8 S/cm) do not suggest a
calcareous inuence on the water chemistry, despite the location of
both springs. lvarez Dez et al. (2009) observed in the same area conductivity levels lower than 100 S/cm and pH values ranging from 6.3 to 6.9
in the water from Barrios quartzite. The above-mentioned observations
suggest that water of both springs comes from siliceous materials, probably from Barrios quartzite, or directly from rainfall, showing a very short
circulation time through the calcareous formation. Therefore, there are
no evidences of a relationship between the springs and the inltration
into the sinkholes toward the karst aquifer. Disconnection may be related
to the existence of compartmentalized aquifers due to the presence of
tectonic structures that behaves as permeability barriers, according to
lvarez Dez et al. (2009).
Geomorphological and hydrogeological evidences, together with
data published by some authors (lvarez Dez et al., 2009; Garrido
Ruiz et al., 2009; Arnanz Gonzlez et al., 2009) and provided by
ADIF and the contractors, are consistent with the inltration of surcial runoff through the drained karst aquifer toward the tunnels,
which represent a new articial baseline for the isolated area of the
Alcedo catchment.
There is a variety of methods to estimate stream ow in mountainous ungauged catchments as the Alcedo Valley. The analysis of
observed precipitation records and physical properties of drainage
basins using GIS (Ko, 2004) allows developing rainfallrunoff
models as a function of precipitation and parameters determined

by basin properties: drainage basin network, surcial formations,


land use and slope (Ko and Cheng, 2004; Cheng et al., 2006). In this
research, the methodology was adapted taking into account the
study area specicities and the available information. Thus, the
modeling carried out shows several limitations. The rst limitation
was the scarcity of complete meteorological data series in the study
area, which limited the use of more sophisticated geostatistical
methods. Taking into account data series characteristics, the deterministic method of Inverse Distance Weighting (IDW) (Shepard,
1968) was chosen for spatial interpolation. The fundamental assumption of this method is that the areas closest to a weather station
have more similar precipitation values than the most distant areas,
giving more weight to the neighboring stations through the interpolation (Tobler, 1970). Secondly, the runoff modeling performed do
not take into account subsurcial ow, water storage time on the
surcial aquifers or inltration through the existing fractures in the
valley bedrock. In addition, pluvionival precipitation conditions,
which prevail in winter in the study area, were not taken into account in the calculation of monthly surcial runoff that inltrates
through the sinkholes. All these hydrogeological and climatic conditions may give rise to runoff variations. Finally, the limited number of
ow rate measurements performed in the Alcedo Stream during this
research made it difcult to calibrate the proposed model. The ow
rate measurement (180 l/s in April) was not used in the calibration
because it is a punctual daily measurement (21/04/2013) estimated
as a maximum ow rate during a melting period. However, the
modeling results are annual or monthly average values. Both data
are not comparable. Nor were daily pumping records used because
the water comes not only from the Lncara karst aquifer but also

P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

169

approach in a case study for which there is no data from before the
observed hydrogeological alteration.

6. Conclusions
The present case study constitutes a good example of surcial
impacts caused by the drilling of base tunnels through karst aquifers
within the phreatic zone. These impacts mainly consist on the development of sinkholes and the associated alteration of the hydrogeological
regime. The following conclusions, derived from the research in the
Alcedo Valley, can be useful for further works which face this kind of
geomorphological and environmental problems:

Fig. 9. A. Monthly mean water volume of inltration in the Alcedo Valley sinkholes. B. Estimated
Alcedo Stream runoff in the natural base level before and after the tunnel perforation.

from all the aquifers drained by the tunnels. On this basis, the mean,
maximum and minimum annual and monthly stream ow values obtained for the period 19702000 in the Alcedo Stream should be understood as an estimation of average stream ow lost due to the
inltration through the sinkholes. This value constitutes a good

The natural hydrogeological regime of the Alcedo Valley has been


altered. The generalized drainage related to the perforation of
the Pajares Tunnels produced the drop of the water table
not only in the Lncara karst aquifer but also in the overlying
Quaternary deposits.
From 2007 to present 25 sinkholes have been developing in
the Alcedo Valley (8 sinkholes between 2007 and 2008 and 17
sinkholes as of 2010). Their origin is interpreted as a result of
the suffosion processes affecting Quaternary sediments with a
cohesive behavior due to a signicant amount of clay. Moreover,
the increase of percolation and groundwater ow across the
karst aquifer enhanced the subsurcial erosion of the Quaternary
deposits, increasing the size of the sinkholes.
Currently, the Alcedo Stream behaves as an inuent stream, losing
all the surcial ow by inltration through 7 active ponors developed at the stream bed. For this reason, a 100 m-long reach of the
Alcedo Stream is dry throughout the year and the upper part of
the watershed (with a 3.9 km2 area) is nowadays isolated from
the rest of the valley, which constitute a serious environmental impact. The channeled section suffered from fracturing and
undermining processes, therefore this channel does not fulll its
function.
The methodological approach applied to this study allowed estimating the pre-existing hydrological regime in the Alcedo Stream before
the drilling works and the current volume of inltration through the
sinkholes.
Due to the capture of the upper reach of the Alcedo Stream by the
swallow holes, annual and monthly ow rates estimated in the natural base level of the Alcedo Stream prior to 2007 decreased about
35% throughout the year, oscillating from 9000 m3 in August and
39,600 m3 in December.
The estimated mean water volume of inltration is 308,903 m3 yr1,
with a maximum of 409,100 m 3 yr 1 and a minimum of
213,477 m3 yr 1 for the period 19702000. In addition, a maximum monthly volume of inltration of 114,013 m 3 per month
was estimated
At present, the process is active and it is expected to continue in
the future.

Acknowledgments

Fig. 10. Spatial relation between ponors, sinkholes, tunnels, stream, shallow deposits and
bedrock aquifers in the Alcedo Valley.

The authors gratefully acknowledge ADIF, FOMENTO DE


CONSTRUCCIONES Y CONTRATAS S.A. and ACCION INFRAESTRUCTURAS
S.A. for the hydrogeological and geotechnical data provided. Special
thanks to A. Gutirrez Blanco, ADIF General Director between 2012
and 2014, and to J.M. Jimnez Snchez, current director of the Pajares
Railway By-pass. The authors also thank to F.J. Torrijo, L. Gonzlez de
Vallejo and two anonymous referees for their comments, who greatly
helped to improve the manuscript, and to C. Lpez Fernndez, A. Blanco,
D. Moral, F. Mrquez, L. Pelez and F. Valenzuela for the assistance.

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P. Valenzuela et al. / Engineering Geology 196 (2015) 158170

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