Scale {Dependency} of {Hydraulic} {Conductivity} in {Heterogeneous} {Media}

  • Schulze-Makuch D
  • Carlson D
  • Cherkauer D
 et al. 
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Various types of sediments and rocks were analyzed for the relationship between hydraulic conductivity (K) and scale of measurement No variations of K with scale were observed for homogeneous media such as quartz-arenites (quartz sandstones). However, hydraulic conductivity increased with scale of measurement in heterogeneous media. The scaling behavior can be described with the equation K = c (V)m, where c is a parameter characteristic of the geological medium that relates to geological variables such as average pore size and pore interconnectivity in porous media, and probably fracture opening and fracture interconnectivity in fractured media. V is the volume of tested material (used as scale measure), and m is the exponent of the relationship (slope of the line on a log-log plot). The value of the exponent depends on the type or types of flow present. Porous flow media have an exponent of 0.5, multiple flow media an exponent between 0.5 and 1.0, and fracture and conduit flow controlled media an exponent of about 1.0. The more dominant fracture/conduit flow is relative to porous flow, the closer the exponent is to 1.0. K increases with scale up to a rock volume after which the aquifer approaches the properties of an equivalent homogeneous medium and K remains constant with scale. This volume (upper bound of the relationship) is related to the degree of heterogeneity in a medium. It is at a much larger scale in karstic media (if encountered at all) than in nonkarstic and more homogeneous media. Both confined and unconfined aquifers exhibit a similar scale dependence.

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  • Dirk Schulze-Makuch

  • Douglas A Carlson

  • Douglas S Cherkauer

  • Peter Malik

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