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Interpretation of hydraulic conductivity in a fractured-rock aquifer over increasingly larger length dimensions

November 1, 2015

A comparison of the hydraulic conductivity over increasingly larger volumes of crystalline rock was conducted in the Piedmont physiographic region near Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Fluid-injection tests were conducted on intervals of boreholes isolating closely spaced fractures. Single-hole tests were conducted by pumping in open boreholes for approximately 30 min, and an interference test was conducted by pumping a single borehole over 3 days while monitoring nearby boreholes. An estimate of the hydraulic conductivity of the rock over hundreds of meters was inferred from simulating groundwater inflow into a kilometer-long section of a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority tunnel in the study area, and a groundwater modeling investigation over the Rock Creek watershed provided an estimate of the hydraulic conductivity over kilometers. The majority of groundwater flow is confined to relatively few fractures at a given location. Boreholes installed to depths of approximately 50 m have one or two highly transmissive fractures; the transmissivity of the remaining fractures ranges over five orders of magnitude. Estimates of hydraulic conductivity over increasingly larger rock volumes varied by less than half an order of magnitude. While many investigations point to increasing hydraulic conductivity as a function of the measurement scale, a comparison with selected investigations shows that the effective hydraulic conductivity estimated over larger volumes of rock can either increase, decrease, or remain stable as a function of the measurement scale. Caution needs to be exhibited in characterizing effective hydraulic properties in fractured rock for the purposes of groundwater management.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Interpretation of hydraulic conductivity in a fractured-rock aquifer over increasingly larger length dimensions
DOI 10.1007/s10040-015-1285-7
Authors Allen M. Shapiro, Jeffery Ladderud, Richard M. Yager
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrogeology Journal
Series Number
Index ID 70186870
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Eastern Branch

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