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Hydrogeological characterization of mountain catchments and alluvial plains

Keywords: hillslope hydrology, hydrochemistry, isotope hydrology, landslide, flood control reservoir
Fig. 1. The headwater catchment of Rio delle Viole (RE) is characterized by wide outcrops of clay shales. (Photo: F. Cervi).
Fig. 2. Mulino delle Vene, Onfiano di Carpineti (RE). (Photo: F. Cervi).
Fig. 3. Parma River flood control reservoir during the field operations (Photo: L. Borgatti).

The research is focused on groundwater, on the one hand at assessing and characterising water as reserve and resource, on the other hand in terms of hazard and risk, with reference to slope instability and flooding. The investigations involve two distinct environments: mountain catchments and alluvial plains. Hydrogeological monitoring in mountain areas is aimed at unravelling groundwater processes at the slope-scale, in other words at assessing the rainfall infiltration and the amounts of groundwater stored inside the aquifers, together with their hydrodynamic properties. The studies are carried out with a multidisciplinary approach, involving both in-continuous monitoring, field experiments, laboratory tests and numerical modelling (Fig. 1).

One of the most promising topics is the use of hydrochemistry and isotope geochemistry to better understand the hydrological behaviour of porous and fractured aquifers, as the ones outcropping in northern Apennines of Italy, together with their relationship with surficial water and runoff generation. In this case, also artificial and environmental tracers are exploited (Fig. 2).

Together with the assessment of hydrogeological, chemical and isotopic variations following rainfall, numerical modelling of infiltration and flow are used to quantify the hydrological processes on stable and unstable slopes. Results allow the influences on reactivation and evolution of landslides (clay-rich landslides, lateral spread and rock-slide phenomena) to be depicted and the hydrogeological behaviour of the aquifers hosted in porous and fractured media and their relationships with rainfall and snowmelt recharge to be delineated.

In alluvial plain areas, the main focus is on flood mitigation measures and their interactions with groundwater. This problem is worthy of research as during the last decades, a large number of flood control reservoirs were built in Emilia Romagna, in order to mitigate flood risk in urban areas. Besides this main purpose, the need for a multiple exploitation of the water stored in the reservoir is becoming of paramount importance, as a consequence of unusual drought periods and also as a source of alternative of energy production. In order to change the original designed destination, i.e., reservoirs that would have been filled for short periods and only in case of high return period flood events, a series of field and lab experimental data are needed, primarily to assure the stability of structures (dam, levees, eventual flood gates etc.) and also to check for possible negative effects, with particular reference to the risk of groundwater pollution and of base flow modifications. Therefore, a multidisciplinary research has to be undertaken, to collect hydrological, geological, hydrogeological and geochemical data, that are the basis of conceptual and numerical models that have to be developed in order to understand the interactions between the reservoir and the aquifer, in different environmental scenarios.

Main publications

Borgatti, L., Corsini, A., Chiapponi, L., D’Oria, M., Giuffredi, F., Lancellotta, R., Mignosa, P., Moretti, G., Orlandini, S., Pellegrini, M., Remitti, F., Ronchetti, F., Tanda, M.G., Zanini, A. Collecting a multi-disciplinary field dataset to model the interactions between a flood control reservoir and the underlying porous aquifer. AGU Fall Meeting, 2008.

Cervi, F., Corsini, A., Doveri, M., Mussi, M., Ronchetti, F., Tazioli, A., Characterizing the recharge of fractured aquifers: a case study in a flysch rock mass of the northern Apennines (Italy), Engineering Geology for Society and Territory, No. 3, 2015, pp. 563-567.

Cervi, F., Borgatti, L., Martinelli G., Ronchetti, F., Evidence of deep water inflow in a tectonic window of the northern Apennines (Italy), Environmental Earth Sciences, 72, No. 7, 2014, pp. 2389-2409.

Cervi, F., Ronchetti, F., Martinelli, G., Bogaard, T.A., Corsini, A., Origin and assessment of deep groundwater inflow in the Ca' Lita landslide using hydrochemistry and in situ monitoring. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, No. 16, 2012, pp. 4205-4221.

Corsini, A., Cervi, F., Ronchetti, F., Weight of evidence and artificial neural networks for potential groundwater spring mapping: an application to the Mt. Modino area (northern Apennines, Italy), Geomorphology, 111(1-2), 2010, pp. 79-87.

Krzeminska, D.M., Bogaard, T.A., Debieche, T.H., Cervi, F., Marc, V., Malet, J.P., Field investigation of preferential fissure flow paths with hydrochemical analysis of small-scale sprinkling experiments, Earth Surface Dynamics, No. 2, 2010, pp. 181-195.

Petronici, F., Borgatti, L., Cervi, F., Piccinini, L., Bonaga, G., Marcato, G., Hydrogeological monitoring and modelling in the S. Lorenzo road tunnel area (Passo della Morte, Udine) for the design of countermeasure works, Rendiconti Online Societa Geologica Italiana, No. 39, 2016, pp. 93-96.

Ronchetti, F., Borgatti, L., Cervi, F., Corsini, A., Hydro-mechanical Features of landslide reactivation in weak clayey rocks, Bulletin of Engineering Geology and Environment, No. 69, 2009, pp. 267-274.

Ronchetti, F., Borgatti, L., Cervi, F., Gorgoni, C., Piccinini, L., Vincenzi, V., Corsini, A., Groundwater processes in a complex landslide, northern Apennines, Italy, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, No. 9, 2009, pp. 895-904.

Spreafico, M.C., Cervi, F., Marc, V., Borgatti, L., Hydrogeological features of a highly fractured rock-slab. Rendiconti Online della Società Geologica Italiana, No. 35, 2015, pp. 283-287.

Research projects

South East Europe –Transnational Cooperation program Project: CC‐WARE - Mitigating Vulnerability of Water Resources under Climate Changes.