Vertical Heterogeneity in Horizontal Components of Specific Discharge: Case Study Analysis

Daniel Ronen, Brian Berkowitz, Mordeckai Magaritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Ground‐water management decisions are usually taken under uncertainty, since they depend on unknown parameters of the aquifer such as hydraulic conductivity and specific discharge. This study applies a number of analytical techniques to a case study in order to demonstrate the potential effect of vertical heterogeneity in the horizontal component of specific discharge on evaluating contaminant travel time in an aquifer. The modified point dilution technique developed by Ronen et al. (1986) is applied to study the vertical variability of the horizontal component of specific discharge in a deep unconfined sandy aquifer. This technique, used under natural flow conditions, employs a multilayer sampler, a tracer, and a mathematical diffusion model. Also analyzed are data from a very large unplanned tracer test where the “tracer”, sewage effluent with a high chloride content, was infiltrated into the aquifer for about 30 years. To date, based on available sedimentological evidence and pumping tests, the aquifer has been regarded as homogeneous. However, information from analysis of the tracer test data by two different flow models, and findings obtained by the modified point dilution technique, indicate the existence of zones of high hydraulic conductivity with specific discharges one order of magnitude higher than expected. As a consequence, chloride breakthrough in a pumping well downstream of effluent infiltration was detected after 10 years, at least 70 years earlier than could have been estimated from previously available data. The results demonstrate that consideration must be given to vertical heterogeneity when evaluating contaminant transport and show that detailed site‐specific field studies are needed in order to prevent or control aquifer contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalGround Water
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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