Analysis of a mesoscale infiltration and water seepage test in unsaturated fractured rock: Spatial variabilities and discrete fracture patterns

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology

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A mesoscale (21??m in flow distance) infiltration and seepage test was recently conducted in a deep, unsaturated fractured rock system at the crossover point of two underground tunnels. Water was released from a 3??m ?? 4??m infiltration plot on the floor of an alcove in the upper tunnel, and seepage was collected from the ceiling of a niche in the lower tunnel. Significant temporal and (particularly) spatial variabilities were observed in both measured infiltration and seepage rates. To analyze the test results, a three-dimensional unsaturated flow model was used. A column-based scheme was developed to capture heterogeneous hydraulic properties reflected by these spatial variabilities observed. Fracture permeability and van Genuchten ?? parameter [van Genuchten, M.T., 1980. A closed-form equation for predicting the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 44, 892-898] were calibrated for each rock column in the upper and lower hydrogeologic units in the test bed. The calibrated fracture properties for the infiltration and seepage zone enabled a good match between simulated and measured (spatially varying) seepage rates. The numerical model was also able to capture the general trend of the highly transient seepage processes through a discrete fracture network. The calibrated properties and measured infiltration/seepage rates were further compared with mapped discrete fracture patterns at the top and bottom boundaries. The measured infiltration rates and calibrated fracture permeability of the upper unit were found to be partially controlled by the fracture patterns on the infiltration plot (as indicated by their positive correlations with fracture density). However, no correlation could be established between measured seepage rates and density of fractures mapped on the niche ceiling. This lack of correlation indicates the complexity of (preferential) unsaturated flow within the discrete fracture network. This also indicates that continuum-based modeling of unsaturated flow in fractured rock at mesoscale or a larger scale is not necessarily conditional explicitly on discrete fracture patterns. ?? 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Analysis of a mesoscale infiltration and water seepage test in unsaturated fractured rock: Spatial variabilities and discrete fracture patterns
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Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
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