The possible negative consequences of underground dam and reservoir construction and operation in coastal karst areas: an example of the hydro-electric power plant (HEPP) Ombla near Dubrovnik (Croatia)
The Ombla Spring represents a typical abundant coastal karst spring located in the vicinity of the town of Dubrovnik (Croatia). Its outlet is at an altitude of 2.5 m above sea level (m a.s.l.) and the water from it immediately flows into the Adriatic Sea. The minimum and maximum measured discharges are 3.96 m 3 s −1 and 117 m 3 s −1, respectively. The Trebišnjica River traverses through its catchment. The mean annual discharge, after the canalization of over 60 km of its watercourse with spray concrete (in the time span 1981–2011), is 24.05 m 3 s −1. Before massive civil engineering work which took place during 1968–1980, the mean annual discharge was 28.35 m 3 s −1. There is a project for construction of the hydro-electric power plant (HEPP) Ombla, which will exclusively use groundwater from the Ombla Spring karst aquifer. The underground dam will be constructed about 200 m behind the existing karst spring outflow in the karst massif, by injecting a grout curtain. The top of the grout curtain is planned to be at an altitude of 130 m a.s.l. This karst system is complex, sensitive, vulnerable and ecologically extremely valuable. The grout curtain, as well as the HEPP Ombla development, could lead to extremely dangerous technical and environmental consequences. In this paper some probable, negative consequences of the HEPP Ombla construction and development are explained. The HEPP Ombla could result in many large and hard-to-predict negative consequences which are specific for this particular HEPP, for example (1) severe spring discharge change; (2) unpredictable regional groundwater redistribution; (3) threatening of endemic fauna; (4) induced seismicity; (5) induced sinkholes; (6) occurrence of landslides; (7) conflict regarding internationally shared karst aquifers; (8) intensification of karst flash floods; (9) sea water intrusion in coastal karst aquifer; etc.