A predominant cause of dispersion in groundwater is advective mixing due to variability in seepage rates. Hydraulic conductivity variations have been extensively researched as a cause of this seepage variability. In this paper the effect of variations in surface recharge to a shallow surficial aquifer is investigated as an important additional effect. An analytical formulation has been developed that relates aquifer parameters and the statistics of recharge variability to increases in the dispersivity. This is accomplished by solving Fourier transforms of the small perturbation forms of the groundwater flow equations. Two field studies are presented in this paper to determine the statistics of recharge variability for input to the analytical formulation. A time series of water levels at a continuous groundwater recorder is used to investigate the temporal statistics of hydraulic head caused by recharge, and a series of infiltrometer measurements are used to define the spatial variability in the recharge parameters. With these field statistics representing head fluctuations due to recharge, the analytical formulation can be used to compute the dispersivity without an explicit representation of the recharge boundary. Results from a series of numerical experiments are used to define the limits of this analytical formulation and to provide some comparison. A sophisticated model has been developed using a particle-tracking algorithm (modified to account for temporal variations) to estimate groundwater dispersion. Dispersivity increases of 9 percent are indicated by the analytical formulation for the aquifer at the field site. A comparison with numerical model results indicates that the analytical results are reasonable for shallow surficial aquifers in which two-dimensional flow can be assumed.
Additional publication details
An analytical formulation of two-dimensional groundwater dispersion induced by surficial recharge variability