On fracture structure and preferential flow in unsaturated chalk

Ofer Dahan, Ronit Nativ, Eilon M. Adar, Brian Berkowitz, Noam Weisbrod

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Scopus citations


    The mechanisms controlling fluid flow through fractures intersecting chalk in the vadose zone were studied through water percolation experiments in natural discrete fractures and by close examination of the inner structure of fracture voids. The percolation experiments showed that the flow is focused in dissolution channels along the fracture plane, and that fluxes and flow trajectories within that net vary in both time and space. The locations of the dissolution channels, the main potential flowpaths within the fracture plane, were generally associated with fracture intersections. The flow through these channels was governed primarily by the mineralogical composition of the filling material and the inner structure of the fracture voids. Salt dissolution, solid-particle migration, and clay swelling were found to be the predominant processes controlling flow through the dissolution channels. These physical changes in the structure of the filling material in the dissolution channels accounted for the observed unstable flow behavior. Our results suggest that models aimed at simulating water percolation through fractures in unsaturated chalk should consider the mapping of fracture intersections in addition to the commonly used mapping of fracture lineaments. Moreover, the detailed characterization of fracture apertures may not be the key parameter determining fracture flow, because in such formations the flow is controlled primarily by filling material. These materials undergo significant physical variations during wetting and drying cycles.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)444-451
    JournalGround Water
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 2000

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Water Science and Technology
    • Computers in Earth Sciences


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