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Underground structures increasing the intrinsic vulnerability of urban groundwater: Sensitivity analysis and development of an empirical law based on a groundwater age modelling approach

Attard, Guillaume, Rossier, Yvan, Eisenlohr, Laurent
Journal of hydrology 2017 v.552 pp. 460-473
aquifers, dewatering, groundwater, hydraulic conductivity, mixing, models, porosity
In a previous paper published in Journal of Hydrology, it was shown that underground structures are responsible for a mixing process between shallow and deep groundwater that can favour the spreading of urban contamination. In this paper, the impact of underground structures on the intrinsic vulnerability of urban aquifers was investigated. A sensitivity analysis was performed using a 2D deterministic modelling approach based on the reservoir theory generalized to hydrodispersive systems to better understand this mixing phenomenon and the mixing affected zone (MAZ) caused by underground structures. It was shown that the maximal extent of the MAZ caused by an underground structure is reached approximately 20years after construction. Consequently, underground structures represent a long-term threat for deep aquifer reservoirs. Regarding the construction process, draining operations have a major impact and favour large-scale mixing between shallow and deep groundwater. Consequently, dewatering should be reduced and enclosed as much as possible. The role played by underground structures’ dimensions was assessed. The obstruction of the first aquifer layer caused by construction has the greatest influence on the MAZ. The cumulative impact of several underground structures was assessed. It was shown that the total MAZ area increases linearly with underground structures’ density. The role played by materials’ properties and hydraulic gradient were assessed. Hydraulic conductivity, anisotropy and porosity have the strongest influence on the development of MAZ. Finally, an empirical law was derived to estimate the MAZ caused by an underground structure in a bi-layered aquifer under unconfined conditions. This empirical law, based on the results of the sensitivity analysis developed in this paper, allows for the estimation of MAZ dimensions under known material properties and underground structure dimensions. This empirical law can help urban planners assess the area of influence of underground structures and protect urban strategic reservoirs.