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Inferring the interconnections between surface water bodies, tile-drains and an unconfined aquifer–aquitard system: A case study

Colombani, N., Di Giuseppe, D., Faccini, B., Ferretti, G., Mastrocicco, M., Coltorti, M.
Journal of hydrology 2016 v.537 pp. 86-95
case studies, coasts, freshwater, groundwater, hydraulic conductivity, mathematical models, meteorological data, mixing, monitoring, preferential flow, salinity, sediments, soil profiles, solutes, surface water, tile drainage, unsaturated flow, water table
Shallow lenses in reclaimed coastal areas are precious sources of freshwater for crop development, but their seasonal behaviour is seldom known in tile-drained fields. In this study, field monitoring and numerical modelling provide a robust conceptual model of these complex environments. Crop and meteorological data are used to implement an unsaturated flow model to reconstruct daily recharge. Groundwater fluxes and salinity, water table elevation, tile-drains’ discharge and salinity are used to calibrate a 2D density-dependent numerical model to quantify non-reactive solute transport within the aquifer–aquitard system. Results suggest that lateral fluxes in low hydraulic conductivity sediments are limited, while water table fluctuation is significant. The use of depth-integrated monitoring to calibrate the model results in poor efficiency, while multi-level soil profiles are crucial to define the mixing zone between fresh and brackish groundwater. Measured fluxes and chloride concentrations from tile-drains not fully compare with calculated ones due to preferential flow through cracks.