Karst systems show high spatial variability of hydraulic parameters over small distances and this makes their modeling a difficult task with several uncertainties. Interconnections of fractures have a major role on the transport of groundwater, but many of the stochastic methods in use do not have the capability to reproduce these complex structures. A methodology is presented for the quantification of tortuosity using the single normal equation simulation (SNESIM) algorithm and a groundwater flow model. A training image was produced based on the statistical parameters of fractures and then used in the simulation process. The SNESIM algorithm was used to generate 75 realizations of the four classes of fractures in a karst aquifer in Iran. The results from six dye tracing tests were used to assign hydraulic conductivity values to each class of fractures. In the next step, the MODFLOW-CFP and MODPATH codes were consecutively implemented to compute the groundwater flow paths. The 9,000 flow paths obtained from the MODPATH code were further analyzed to calculate the tortuosity factor. Finally, the hydraulic conductivity values calculated from the dye tracing experiments were refined using the actual flow paths of groundwater. The key outcomes of this research are: (1) a methodology for the quantification of tortuosity; (2) hydraulic conductivities, that are incorrectly estimated (biased low) with empirical equations that assume Darcian (laminar) flow with parallel rather than tortuous streamlines; and (3) an understanding of the scale-dependence and non-normal distributions of tortuosity.
Hydrogeology Journal – Springer Journals
Published: May 5, 2017
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