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Constraints on the Permeability Structure of Alluvial Aquifers From Geophysical Measurements

English title Constraints on the Permeability Structure of Alluvial Aquifers From Geophysical Measurements
Applicant Holliger Klaus
Number 113363
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Institut de géophysique Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Geophysics
Start/End 01.03.2007 - 31.03.2009
Approved amount 323'510.00
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All Disciplines (2)


Keywords (11)

local-scale aquifer characterization; contaminant transport; hydrogeology; hydrology; hydrogeophysics; porosity; permeability; alluvial aquifers; protection; remediation; sustainable management

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
A comprehensive strategy is proposed for obtaining order-of-magnitude-type constraints on the local-scale permeability structure of unconsolidated alluvial aquifers through non-standard geophysical measurements. Knowledge of the permeability distribution within an aquifer is a key prerequisite for reliable predictions of fluid flow and contaminant transport. This information is in turn critical for the effective protection, remediation and sustainable management of the increasingly scarce and fragile groundwater resources in densely populated and/or highly industrialized regions throughout the world. Geophysical constraints with regard to the permeability structure are considered to be particularly valuable because they have the potential to bridge the inherent gap in terms of resolution and coverage that exists between corresponding traditional hydrogeological methods, such as core analyses and tracer or pumping tests. The proposed research focuses on the common case of saturated alluvial aquifers, but with suitable modifications can be extended to consolidated sedimentary and fractured “hardrock” aquifers as well as to the vadose zone. Although standard geophysical exploration approaches cannot in general provide any information on the permeability structure of the probed medium, there are less conventional geophysical techniques that are expected to exhibit some more or less direct sensitivity to the permeability structure. The most promising such techniques are analyses of the attenuation of Stoneley waves and seismic body waves on the one hand and induced polarisation (IP) and gamma log measurements on the other hand. Whereas the attenuation of seismic waves in saturated porous media is known to be more or less directly related to the permeability structure, IP measurements and gamma logs are expected to exhibit an indirect relation to the permeability structure of unconsolidated sediments via their sensitivity to the grain size. In the framework of two sub-projects, we propose to systematically explore the potential of these techniques for providing order-of-magnitude-type constraints on the permeability structure of alluvial aquifers. Before being tested and verified in corresponding field experiments, these techniques will be rigorously investigated through realistic numerical simulations in the case of Stoneley wave and seismic body wave measurements and through well-controlled, statistically representative laboratory experiments in the case of IP and gamma log measurements. This structured, model-based approach will allow us to (i) systematically develop, implement and test the proposed methods, (ii) optimize their functionality, (iii) provide quantitative estimates with regard to the uncertainties of inferred permeability estimates as a function of the methods used, the available database and the experimental configuration, and (iv) improve acquisition, processing and interpretation strategies.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
107658 Local-Scale Characterization of Alluvial Aquifers Based on the Quantitative Integration of High-Resolution Geophysical and Hydrogeological Data 01.10.2005 Project funding
125108 Constraints on the Permeability Structure of Alluvial Aquifers From Geophysical Measurements 01.04.2009 Project funding