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Quantifying water flow and retention in an unsaturated fracture-facial domain

June 12, 2015

Hydrologically significant flow and storage of water occur in macropores and fractures that are only partially filled. To accommodate such processes in flow models, we propose a three-domain framework. Two of the domains correspond to water flow and water storage in a fracture-facial region, in addition to the third domain of matrix water. The fracture-facial region, typically within a fraction of a millimeter of the fracture wall, includes a flowing phase whose fullness is determined by the availability and flux of preferentially flowing water, and a static storage portion whose fullness is determined by the local matric potential. The flow domain can be modeled with the source-responsive preferential flow model, and the roughness-storage domain can be modeled with capillary relations applied on the fracture-facial area. The matrix domain is treated using traditional unsaturated flow theory. We tested the model with application to the hydrology of the Chalk formation in southern England, coherently linking hydrologic information including recharge estimates, streamflow, water table fluctuation, imaging by electron microscopy, and surface roughness. The quantitative consistency of the three-domain matrix-microcavity-film model with this body of diverse data supports the hypothesized distinctions and active mechanisms of the three domains and establishes the usefulness of this framework.

Publication Year 2015
Title Quantifying water flow and retention in an unsaturated fracture-facial domain
DOI 10.1002/9781118877517.ch12
Authors John R. Nimmo, Siamak Malek-Mohammadi
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70159691
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Western Branch