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PHT3D-UZF: A reactive transport model for variably-saturated porous media

February 1, 2016

A modified version of the MODFLOW/MT3DMS-based reactive transport model PHT3D was developed to extend current reactive transport capabilities to the variably-saturated component of the subsurface system and incorporate diffusive reactive transport of gaseous species. Referred to as PHT3D-UZF, this code incorporates flux terms calculated by MODFLOW's unsaturated-zone flow (UZF1) package. A volume-averaged approach similar to the method used in UZF-MT3DMS was adopted. The PHREEQC-based computation of chemical processes within PHT3D-UZF in combination with the analytical solution method of UZF1 allows for comprehensive reactive transport investigations (i.e., biogeochemical transformations) that jointly involve saturated and unsaturated zone processes. Intended for regional-scale applications, UZF1 simulates downward-only flux within the unsaturated zone. The model was tested by comparing simulation results with those of existing numerical models. The comparison was performed for several benchmark problems that cover a range of important hydrological and reactive transport processes. A 2D simulation scenario was defined to illustrate the geochemical evolution following dewatering in a sandy acid sulfate soil environment. Other potential applications include the simulation of biogeochemical processes in variably-saturated systems that track the transport and fate of agricultural pollutants, nutrients, natural and xenobiotic organic compounds and micropollutants such as pharmaceuticals, as well as the evolution of isotope patterns.

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