Influence of temporally variable groundwater flow conditions on point measurements and contaminant mass flux estimations

Arno Rein, S Bauer, P Dietrich, C Beyer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Monitoring of contaminant concentrations, e.g., for the estimation of mass discharge or contaminant degradation rates. often is based on point measurements at observation wells. In addition to the problem, that point measurements may not be spatially representative. a further complication may arise due to the temporal dynamics of groundwater flow, which may cause a concentration measurement to be not temporally representative. This paper presents results from a numerical modeling study focusing on temporal variations of the groundwater flow direction. "Measurements" are obtained from point information representing observation wells installed along control planes using different well frequencies and configurations. Results of the scenario simulations show that temporally variable flow conditions can lead to significant temporal fluctuations of the concentration and thus are a substantial source of uncertainty for point measurements. Temporal variation of point concentration measurements may be as high as the average concentration determined, especially near the plume fringe, even when assuming a homogeneous distribution of the hydraulic conductivity. If a heterogeneous hydraulic conductivity field is present, the concentration variability due to a fluctuating groundwater flow direction varies significantly within the control plane and between the different realizations. Determination of contaminant mass fluxes is also influenced by the temporal variability of the concentration measurement, especially for large spacings of the observation wells. Passive dosimeter sampling is found to be appropriate for evaluating the stationarity of contaminant plumes as well as for estimating average concentrations over time when the plume has fully developed. Representative sampling has to be performed over several periods of groundwater flow fluctuation. For the determination of mass fluxes at heterogeneous sites, however, local fluxes, which may vary considerably along a control plane, have to be accounted for. Here, dosimeter sampling in combination with time integrated local water flux measurements can improve mass flux estimates under dynamic flow conditions. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Volume108
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)118-133
ISSN0169-7722
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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