The Ancient City in Lijiang of southwestern China was endowed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, and the karst springs located in Black Dragon Pool are its main water source. However, the springs have dried up several times in recent years, which caused serious damages to the landscape as well as the city water supply. Triggered by the dried-up event in Black Dragon Pool, a long-distance artificial tracer test up to 17 km was employed to investigate the karst conduit network distributing in the study area. Based on the tracer concentration breakthrough curves (BTCs), the hydraulic connection from the same injection point (located in a giant depression named the Jiuzi Sea) to the springs on both sides of the topography watershed was proven, and the conduit structure was discussed. According to the characteristics of BTCs and considering the low tracer concentration and tracer recovery, a conceptual structure of leaky reservoir with threshold effect above a certain groundwater level was established to interpret why the springs in Black Dragon Pool dried up several times in history, but those in the Ancient City never did. Furthermore, a method of injecting surface water into the Jiuzi Sea to raise the groundwater level up to the height of Black Dragon Pool was proposed to restore the springs. Our study provides insights into the long-distance artificial tracer test, and opens a new avenue for groundwater resource recovery of this Ancient City.
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