Optimising the use of Recirculating Well Pairs for the Determination of Aquifer Hydraulic Conductivity
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Hydraulic conductivity (K) is a key parameter required for the accurate prediction of contaminant transport in an aquifer. Traditionally, pump tests, slug tests, grain size analysis and, to a lesser extent, tracer tests have been employed to estimate the K of an aquifer. These methods have disadvantages in respect to assessing the K of a contaminated aquifer, for example, pumping tests generate large quantities of potentially contaminated water, slug tests interrogate only a small portion of aquifer to generate K values, and tracer tests are costly to perform. The recirculating well pair (RWP) system, assessed in this study, attempts to minimise these disadvantages while producing accurate estimates of K. The RWP system uses two wells, each screened in two positions; one screen injects water and the other extracts water from the aquifer. One well extracts water from the lower screen and injects it into the aquifer via the upper screen, whereas the second well extracts water from the upper screen and injects it through the lower screen. When these two wells are pumped in tandem a recirculation system is created within the aquifer. No water is lost or gained from the aquifer in this system. Hydraulic conductivity can be estimated from a RWP system by either the multi dipole or the fractional flow methods. The multi dipole method estimates K by measuring steady state hydraulic heads, whereas the fractional flow method uses a tracer test to obtain steady state concentrations at the four screens to estimate K. Both methods utilise a 3D flow model to simulate the aquifer system. Inverse modelling in conjunction with a genetic algorithm simulate the hydraulic head values obtained from the multi dipole experiments or the tracer steady state values obtained from the fractional flow method. Hydraulic ii conductivity estimates are obtained by matching the simulated and observed steady state hydraulic head, or tracer steady state values. An investigation of the accuracy of the two RWP methods, when system parameters are varied, in estimating K values was undertaken. Five multi dipole experiments were undertaken with varying dipole flow rates to assess the effect of altering dipole flow rate on estimates of K. Two experiments were also undertaken to assess the effect of altering the pumping well incidence angle as compared to the regional flow on the accuracy of K estimates. Five fractional flow experiments were conducted, four to assess the effect of changing dipole pumping rates and one to assess the influence of altering the incidence angle of the pumping wells on estimation of K. All experiments were undertaken in an artificial aquifer that allowed control of hydraulic parameters and accurate measurement of aquifer K by independent methods. Experimental results were modelled with the two RWP methods. Results indicate that both the multi dipole and fractional flow methods provide accurate estimates of the K of the artificial aquifer (5 % to 57% greater than the actual K and -14% to 17% of the actual K, respectively). Altering the ratio between the pumping well and regional aquifer flow rates had no effect on the estimated K results in both methods. Although preliminary results were positive, further work needs to be undertaken to determine if changing the orientation of the well pairs affects the estimation of K.