Date: 29 Aug 2007

Steady flows driven by sources of random strength in heterogeneous aquifers with application to partially penetrating wells

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Average steady source flow in heterogeneous porous formations is modelled by regarding the hydraulic conductivity K(x) as a stationary random space function (RSF). As a consequence, the flow variables become RSFs as well, and we are interested into calculating their moments. This problem has been intensively studied in the case of a Neumann type boundary condition at the source. However, there are many applications (such as well-type flows) for which the required boundary condition is that of Dirichlet. In order to fulfill such a requirement the strength of the source must be proportional to K(x), and therefore the source itself results a RSF. To solve flows driven by sources whose strength is spatially variable, we have used a perturbation procedure similar to that developed by Indelman and Abramovich (Water Resour Res 30:3385–3393, 1994) to analyze flows generated by sources of deterministic strength. Due to the linearity of the mathematical problem, we have focused on the explicit derivation of the mean head distribution G d (x) generated by a unit pulse. Such a distribution represents the fundamental solution to the average flow equations, and it is termed as mean Green function. The function G d (x) is derived here at the second order of approximation in the variance σ2 of the fluctuation \(\varepsilon \left({{\mathbf{x}}}\right) = 1- \frac{K{\left({{\mathbf{x}}}\right)}}{K_{A}}\) (where K A is the mean value of K(x)), for arbitrary correlation function ρ(x), and any dimensionality d of the flow domain. We represent G d (x) as product between the homogeneous Green function G d (0) (x) valid in a domain with constant K A , and a distortion term Ψ d (x) = 1 + σ2ψ d (x) which modifies G d (0) (x) to account for the medium heterogeneity. In the case of isotropic formations ψ d (x) is expressed via one quadrature. This quadrature can be analytically calculated after adopting specific (e.g.. exponential and Gaussian) shape for ρ(x). These general results are subsequently used to investigate flow toward a partially-penetrating well in a semi-infinite domain. Indeed, we construct a σ2-order approximation to the mean as well as variance of the head by replacing the well with a singular segment. It is shown how the well-length combined with the medium heterogeneity affects the head distribution. We have introduced the concept of equivalent conductivity K eq(r,z). The main result is the relationship \(\frac{K^{\rm eq}\left(r,z\right)} {K_{A}} = 1-\sigma^{2}\psi^{\left(w\right)}\left(r,z\right)\) where the characteristic function ψ(w)(r,z) adjusts the homogeneous conductivity K A to account for the impact of the heterogeneity. In this way, a procedure can be developed to identify the aquifer hydraulic properties by means of field-scale head measurements. Finally, in the case of a fully penetrating well we have expressed the equivalent conductivity in analytical form, and we have shown that \(K^{({\rm efu})}\leq K^{\rm eq}\left(r\right) \leq K_{A}\) (being \(K^{({\rm efu})}\) the effective conductivity for mean uniform flow), in agreement with the numerical simulations of Firmani et al. (Water Resour Res 42:W03422, 2006).