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Open AccessArticle

Fine Characterization of the Effects of Aquifer Heterogeneity on Solute Transport: A Numerical Sandbox Experiment

1
School of Water Resources and Environment, China University of Geosciences, Beijing 100083, China
2
Institute of Groundwater and Earth Sciences, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
3
Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
4
School of Civil and Resource Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, Beijing 100083, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(11), 2295; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11112295
Received: 4 September 2019 / Revised: 21 October 2019 / Accepted: 30 October 2019 / Published: 1 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Hydrology)
Hydraulic conductivity (K) and the specific storage coefficient (S) are among the most important hydrogeological parameters of an aquifer. Traditionally, the hydrogeological parameters of a field aquifer system are mainly determined through a range of experiments that are both time-consuming and of poor operability. To accurately characterize aquifer heterogeneity, a synthetic sandbox is constructed using VSAFT2 (Variably Saturated Flow and Transport utilizing the Modified Method of Characteristics, in 2D) as a reference aquifer system by incorporating multilevel a priori geologic information into the sandbox configuration. The spatial distribution of the field of hydraulic conductivity (i.e., K) is inversely obtained by hydraulic tomography (HT). Then HT is compared with traditional kriging-estimated method in the fine characterization of aquifer heterogeneity, and the optimal K field is eventually selected to predict the solute transport. The influence of the number of pumping cycles on the accuracy of heterogeneity characterization is also discussed. The results show that the accuracy of the inversely obtained K field is improved with the increased number of pumping cycles. When incorporating multilevel a priori geological information, HT can characterize aquifer heterogeneity more finely than traditional kriging, and there is also a very good fitting of solute transport between the optimally estimated K field and the reference K field. Our study highlights the importance of the fine characterization of aquifer heterogeneity for the prediction of solute transport.
Keywords: hydraulic tomography; sandbox experiment; multilevel a priori information; solute transport hydraulic tomography; sandbox experiment; multilevel a priori information; solute transport
MDPI and ACS Style

Zhang, Y.; Wu, C.; Hu, B.X.; Yeh, T.-C.; Hao, Y.; Lv, W. Fine Characterization of the Effects of Aquifer Heterogeneity on Solute Transport: A Numerical Sandbox Experiment. Water 2019, 11, 2295.

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