Hydraulic conductivity quantifies how easily water moves through aquifers, a factor important for management of water resources, the design of wells, and remediation of contaminated sites. It typically shows strong spatial fluctuations, so determining hydraulic conductivity usually involves extensive, invasive, and often expensive installation of wells or sampling sites within the aquifer.
Davina Pollock and Olaf A. Cirpka, of the Center for Applied Geoscience, University of Tübingen, have come up with an alternative method. They inject a salt solution into the subsurface, thus changing its electrical properties. The propagation of the solution through the aquifer can then be followed by electrical measurements scattered over the survey area.
By innovatively coupling the system of groundwater flow, solute transport, and electrical currents, they can directly deduce the spatial distribution of hydraulic conductivity in the aquifer, and also resolve fine-scale features without major invasions into the subsurface.
Their research appears in the journal Water Resources Research.
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