One of the challenges in characterizing fractured-rock aquifers is determining whether the equivalent porous medium approximation is valid at the problem scale. Detailed hydrogeologic characterization completed at a small study site in a densely fractured dolomite has yielded an extensive data set that was used to evaluate the utility of the continuum and discrete-fracture approaches to aquifer characterization. There are two near-vertical sets of fractures at the site; near-horizontal bedding-plane partings constitute a third fracture set. Eighteen boreholes, including five coreholes, were drilled to a depth of ???10.6 m. Borehole geophysical logs revealed several laterally extensive horizontal fractures and dissolution zones. Flowmeter and short-interval packer testing identified which of these features were hydraulically important. A monitoring system, consisting of short-interval piezometers and multilevel samplers, was designed to monitor four horizontal fractures and two dissolution zones. The resulting network consisted of >70 sampling points and allowed detailed monitoring of head distributions in three dimensions. Comparison of distributions of hydraulic head - and hydraulic conductivity determined by these two approaches suggests that even in a densely fractured-carbonate aquifer, a characterization approach using traditional long-interval monitoring wells is inadequate to characterize ground water movement for the purposes of regulatory monitoring or site remediation. In addition, traditional multiwell pumping tests yield an average or bulk hydraulic conductivity that is not adequate for predicting rapid ground water travel times through the fracture network, and the pumping test response does not appear to be an adequate tool for assessing whether the porous medium approximation is valid. Copyright ?? 2005 National Ground Water Association.
Additional publication details
Site characterization in densely fractured dolomite: Comparison of methods