A new method is proposed to simulate groundwater age directly, by use of an advection-dispersion transport equation with a distributed zero-order source of unit (1) strength, corresponding to the rate of aging. The dependent variable in the governing equation is the mean age, a mass-weighted average age. The governing equation is derived from residence-time-distribution concepts for the case of steady flow. For the more general case of transient flow, a transient governing equation for age is derived from mass-conservation principles applied to conceptual “age mass.” The age mass is the product of the water mass and its age, and age mass is assumed to be conserved during mixing. Boundary conditions include zero age mass flux across all noflow and inflow boundaries and no age mass dispersive flux across outflow boundaries. For transient-flow conditions, the initial distribution of age must be known. The solution of the governing transport equation yields the spatial distribution of the mean groundwater age and includes diffusion, dispersion, mixing, and exchange processes that typically are considered only through tracer-specific solute transport simulation. Traditional methods have relied on advective transport to predict point values of groundwater travel time and age. The proposed method retains the simplicity and tracer-independence of advection-only models, but incorporates the effects of dispersion and mixing on volume-averaged age. Example simulations of age in two idealized regional aquifer systems, one homogeneous and the other layered, demonstrate the agreement between the proposed method and traditional particle-tracking approaches and illustrate use of the proposed method to determine the effects of diffusion, dispersion, and mixing on groundwater age.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Direct simulation of groundwater age|
|Series title||Water Resources Research|
|Publisher||American Geophysical Union|
|Contributing office(s)||Pennsylvania Water Science Center|