Unsaturated flow and solute transport through the chalk : tracer test and dual permeability modelling

Van den Daele, G.F.A.; Barker, J.A.; Connell, L.; Atkinson, T.C.; Darling, George; Cooper, J.D.. 2007 Unsaturated flow and solute transport through the chalk : tracer test and dual permeability modelling. Journal of Hydrology, 342 (1-2). 157-172.

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A tracer test was carried out in the unsaturated Chalk at the Fleam Dyke research site in Cambridgeshire, UK, to investigate the role of the Chalk fractures and matrix in unsaturated flow and solute transport. The experiment, under natural rainfall conditions, involved distributing deuterated water on a grass-covered lysimeter (a cube of volume 125 m3) and on an adjacent 4 m × 4 m field plot. Tracer migration was monitored through regular core sampling and collection of lysimeter drainage water. The presence of occasional secondary peaks in sampling of the vertical tracer profile suggested the occurrence of fracture flow, allowing some tracer to bypass the Chalk matrix. However, in the 15 months following application, none of the tracer was detected in the lysimeter drainage at 5 m depth. Modelling of the tracer results was undertaken with the 1-D numerical transient dual permeability model MACRO 5.0, initially developed for macroporous soils. Modelling results showed that MACRO 5.0 could reliably simulate transient recharge through the Chalk. The simulations suggested that fracture flow is important at the site, but that it is only initiated at 1 m depth or deeper. The extent of fracture flow appeared to be highly variable in different layers of the profile, varying between 40% and 85% of the cumulative flux, mainly depending on the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the matrix. Diffusion between the fractures and the matrix tended to equalize solute concentrations in both flow domains, although solute bypass through the fractures occurred in some Chalk strata. Besides diffusive exchange, the modelling stressed the importance of advective exchange of solutes. The results suggest that the Chalk aquifer at the Fleam Dyke site is only moderately vulnerable to pollution, even though for moderate rainfall conditions some bypass flow was possible.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Groundwater Management
CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Harding (to July 2011)
ISSN: 0022-1694
Additional Keywords: Permeability, Chalk aquifer, Chalk, Dual permeability models, Tracer test, Matrix diffusion, Unsaturated zone, GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Environmental tracers
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Related URLs:
Date made live: 23 Sep 2009 13:39 +0 (UTC)

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