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Hydraulic Tomography Offers Improved Imaging of Heterogeneity in Fractured Rocks

Illman, Walter A.
Ground water 2014 v.52 no.5 pp. 659-684
aquifers, geophysics, groundwater, groundwater flow, hydraulic conductivity, image analysis, kriging, models, monitoring, prediction, rocks, surveys, temperature, tomography
Fractured rocks have presented formidable challenges for accurately predicting groundwater flow and contaminant transport. This is mainly due to our difficulty in mapping the fracture‐rock matrix system, their hydraulic properties and connectivity at resolutions that are meaningful for groundwater modeling. Over the last several decades, considerable effort has gone into creating maps of subsurface heterogeneity in hydraulic conductivity (K) and specific storage (Sₛ) of fractured rocks. Developed methods include kriging, stochastic simulation, stochastic inverse modeling, and hydraulic tomography. In this article, I review the evolution of various heterogeneity mapping approaches and contend that hydraulic tomography, a recently developed aquifer characterization technique for unconsolidated deposits, is also a promising approach in yielding robust maps (or tomograms) of K and Sₛ heterogeneity for fractured rocks. While hydraulic tomography has recently been shown to be a robust technique, the resolution of the K and Sₛ tomograms mainly depends on the density of pumping and monitoring locations and the quality of data. The resolution will be improved through the development of new devices for higher density monitoring of pressure responses at discrete intervals in boreholes and potentially through the integration of other data from single‐hole tests, borehole flowmeter profiling, and tracer tests. Other data from temperature and geophysical surveys as well as geological investigations may improve the accuracy of the maps, but more research is needed. Technological advances will undoubtedly lead to more accurate maps. However, more effort should go into evaluating these maps so that one can gain more confidence in their reliability.