The physical properties of minor aquifers in England and Wales

Jones, H.K.; Morris, B.L.; Cheney, C.S.; Brewerton, L.J.; Merrin, P.D.; Lewis, M.A.; MacDonald, A.M. ORCID:; Coleby, L.M.; Talbot, J.C.; Mckenzie, A.A.; Bird, M.J.; Cunningham, J.E.; Robinson, V.. 2000 The physical properties of minor aquifers in England and Wales. British Geological Survey, 234pp. (WD/00/004, Environment Agency R&D Publication 68) (Unpublished)

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This report is the result of a three-year collaborative project between the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency. The aim of the project has been to collect, collate and present information concerning the physical hydraulic properties of the minor aquifers in England and Wales. These properties include hydraulic conductivity, porosity, transmissivity and storage coefficient. In addition, specific capacity (yield per unit drawdown) values are included for many of the formations described, together with yields for those formations where aquifer properties data are sparse. Although the parameters studied were limited in number, the study has proven to be complex for several reasons. Firstly the aquifers themselves are hydraulically complicated. They are bodies of rock, sometimes with indeterminate boundaries, which are heterogeneous either because of sedimentological factors in the case of the Cainozoic aquifers, or because of the effects of fracturing in older formations. This heterogeneity presents several problems. Firstly, hydraulic tests on such materials often violate the classical assumptions used in the test analysis, and the complexity of the aquifers makes interpolation between data points difficult. Secondly, the physical properties of the aquifers are often scale dependent, so that the value of a parameter at one scale may not be appropriate for use at a larger or smaller scale. Thirdly, there are problems of data quality and quantity which are particularly significant for these smaller aquifers. The quality of the pumping tests is variable and many results are from short duration pumping tests which are designed more to assess the yields of boreholes than to examine the properties of the aquifer. Also, data can be very irregularly distributed, being a product mainly of the evolving requirements of groundwater users and not of well-planned resource assessments. This irregular spacing can be both vertical as well as lateral, as in the case of thick structurally complex sequences with only scattered productive horizons. Awareness of these inherent hydrogeological factors dictated the project’s approach, which was to collect both data and knowledge about the aquifers. This permits the report to describe not only the magnitudes and variability of the aquifer parameters at a given tested locality, but also to provide some insight into factors controlling the properties, so that the results can be more confidently extrapolated. Project resources were therefore initially employed in data collection. This involved a detailed search through Agency records, with additional information from BGS, published and unpublished literature. Most of the data obtained were from analysed pumping tests, the results of which were entered in a database. The latter originally housed data on the major aquifers, collected under a preceding project, but the database needed to be significantly altered and expanded so as to manage efficiently the much larger number of aquifers involved. It was also linked with the BGS Core Analysis Database. The result comprises the National Aquifer Properties Database which is now a major UK geoscience resource, with data from more than 8000 pumping test analyses at over 8250 sites. The second main strand of the project was the collection and summarising of knowledge about the aquifers. In addition to the collection of reports of hydrogeological studies and a literature survey, expert opinion was canvassed. The latter is a vital source of information that is not often published. The results of these two approaches are synthesised in this report. After the introductory sections each chapter takes the form of a detailed review of the physical properties of a group of minor aquifers, subdivided as appropriate on stratigraphic or geographical grounds. The chapters are arranged in order of increasing age. The purpose of the review is to present the magnitudes and variability of the data (mainly from the database, but with other examples) in the context of current understanding of the aquifer systems involved and the controls on the data. To that end the review includes geological, geographical and physical hydrogeological aspects of the aquifers. Useful summaries of data from the database are included on the accompanying CD-ROM. The intention of the report is therefore to acquaint the reader with the aquifer properties data values that characterise the aquifers in the context of what is known about the complexities of their hydraulic structure and the physical controls on the data. The reader is specifically dissuaded from taking raw values out of context. A further purpose of the report is provide a comprehensive set of references by which the reader can obtain more detailed information about particular areas of interest in an aquifer. As a result of the collection and review of information about the physical properties of the minor aquifers in England and Wales, it is apparent that there are many areas in which knowledge is inadequate. For example, a critical comparison of the equivalent aquifer systems in the London and Hampshire basins was not possible in other than the most general terms. Similarly, the lateral variability in aquifer properties in the Lower Cretaceous aquifers of the Weald is suspected to arise partly from fault-controlled compartmentalisation, but the role of the faults is not well enough understood for predictive purposes. For all the effort expended on geological characterisation over almost two centuries of detailed study of English Jurassic rocks, the flow systems of the numerous arenaceous and carbonate minor aquifers of that system are in general poorly characterised. Very localised borehole development and the effects of tapping complex multi-aquifer sequences mean that the fracture-dominant, structurally-affected systems of older rocks of Palaeozoic age are in many cases barely conceptualised. Such gaps in our knowledge are inevitable considering the paucity of data. Nevertheless, the project has provided the first opportunity to review comprehensively the aquifer properties of this second rank of British aquifers whose role is so important in providing local sources of water supply for both private and public use.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Groundwater Management
Funders/Sponsors: NERC
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item has been internally reviewed but not externally peer-reviewed
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Aquifer characterisation, Groundwater resources
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Date made live: 13 Dec 2010 14:05 +0 (UTC)

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