Numerical investigation of the anisotropic hydraulic conductivity behavior in heterogeneous porous media

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Abstract

The behavior of the mean equivalent hydraulic conductivity normal and parallel to stratification (K 1, and K 2, respectively) is studied here through Monte Carlo simulations of three-dimensional, steady-state flow in statistically anisotropic, bounded, and heterogeneous media. For water flow normal to stratification in strongly heterogeneous porous media (σ2 Y =3) the value of K 1 is not unique; it ranges from an arithmetic to a geometric, and finally, to a harmonic mean behavior depending on field dimensions, and medium anisotropy. For a fixed anisotropy ratio and variance of Y = ln K, the larger the distance, in the direction perpendicular to stratification, over which water flow takes place, the faster the rate at which, K H , behavior is approached. However, even for large anisotropy ratios, harmonic mean behavior appears to be a good approximation only for aquifer thickness L 1 that is large enough to allow stratified flow to occur. For small aquifer thickness (L 11<8, where λ1 is the integral scale normal to stratification) the limiting behavior, for large anisotropy ratios, appears to be, instead, that of two-dimensional flow, i.e., water flows primarily parallel to the planes of stratification. When the aquifer thickness is very small compared to the horizontal dimensions (and with relative similar integral scales in the three directions) a behavior resembling arithmetic mean conditions is exhibited, i.e., water flow takes place through heterogeneous, vertical, soil volumes. The geostatistical expressions of Desbarats (1992a) for upscaling hydraulic conductivity values were utilized and closed form empirical relations were developed for the main components of the upscaled hydraulic conductivity tensor.