Computer simulation of mass transport in groundwater : affect of macroscopic heterogeneities in hydraulic conductivity
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In this study a computer model was used to simulate dissolved chloride movement through alluvial sediments which border the Canadian River in Hutchinson County, Texas. Hydraulic conductivity values of the sediments were required in order to calculate groundwater velocities in the system. The most realistic representation of conductivity variations in porous media is expressed by frequency distributions rather than by averaged values of conductivity. Numerous sedimentological environments exhibit log-normal conductivity distributions; therefore, one was used in this investigation. A number of conclusions can be based on the results of this study. First, certain conductivity distributions account for the observed spread of chloride in the aquifer. The best match of observed chloride dispersion was obtained with autocorrelated log-normal conductivity distributions. Secondly, the degree of spatial dependence between adjacent conductivity values affected numerous results. These include the amount of chloride dispersion and the extent of uncertainty in calculated hydraulic head and chloride distributions. For comparative purposes the chloride distribution was also modeled using an average conductivity value. Under this condition the chloride plume moved at an average rate of 10 meters/year. Another result was that longitudinal and transverse dispersivities of 46 meters and 9 meters, respectively, were required to obtain a match between observed and modeled chloride distributions.