Using continuous electrical conductivity measurements to derive major solute concentrations in karst systems

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Hydrochemical data of karst springs provide valuable insights into the internal hydrodynamical functioning of karst systems and support model structure identification. However, the collection of high-frequency time series of major solute species is limited by analysis costs. In this study, we develop a method to retrieve the individual solute concentration time series and their uncertainty at high temporal resolution for karst springs by using continuous observations of electrical conductivity ((Figure presented.)) and low-frequency ionic measurements. Due to the large ion content and non-negligible concentrations of aqueous complexes in karst systems, the concentration of each solute species occurring as free ion and as part of aqueous complexes are computed separately. The concentration of species occurring as free ions are computed considering their contributions to the total (Figure presented.), whereas the concentration of the species as part of complexes are obtained from speciation calculations. The pivotal role of the complexation processes for the reconstruction of solute concentration time series starting from the (Figure presented.) signal is investigated in two karstic catchments with different geologies and temporal resolution of the available hydrochemical datasets, that is the Kerschbaum dolostone system in Austria and the Baget limestone system in France. The results show that complexation processes are significant and should be considered for the estimation of the total solute concentration in case of SO4, Ca, Mg and HCO3. The (Figure presented.) signal of a karst spring can be used to interpolate and quantify the dynamics of those solutes characterized by large contribution (approximately >6%) to the total (Figure presented.) and low relative variability, that is HCO3, Ca and Mg. Moreover, the presented method can be used to estimate concentrations of solutes when applied to karst systems with stationary and hydrogeochemical homogeneous contributing area. On the contrary, the method is affected by large uncertainty in case of dynamic systems characterized by varying contributions of water from different geological areas. This study aims to contribute to the problem of hydrogeochemical data availability and to support future works on karst systems conceptualization.