In this study, the S-shaped log-log drawdown-time curve typical of pumping tests in unconfined aquifers is reinvestigated via numerical experiments. Like previous investigations, this study attributes the departure of the S shape from the drawdown-time behavior of the confined aquifer to the presence of an "additional" source of water. Unlike previous studies, this source of water is reinvestigated by examining the temporal and spatial evolution of the rate of change in storage in an unconfined aquifer during pumping. This evolution is then related to the transition of water release mechanisms from the expansion of water and compaction of the porous medium to the drainage of water from the unsaturated zone above the initial water table and initially saturated pores as the water table falls during the pumping of the aquifer. Afterward, the 1-D vertical drainage process in a soil column is simulated. Results of the simulation show that the transition of the water release mechanisms in the 1-D vertical flow without an initial unsaturated zone can also yield the S-shaped drawdown-time curve as in an unconfined aquifer. We therefore conclude that the transition of the water release mechanisms and vertical flow in the aquifer are the cause of the S-shaped drawdown-time curve observed during pumping in an unconfined aquifer. We also find that the moisture retention characteristics of the aquifer material have greater impact than its relative permeability characteristics on the drawdown-time curve. Furthermore, influences of the spatial variability of saturated hydraulic conductivity, specific storage, and saturated moisture content on the drawdown curve in the saturated zone are found to be more significant than those of other unsaturated properties. Finally, a cross-correlation analysis reveals that the drawdown at a location in a heterogeneous unconfined aquifer is mainly affected by local heterogeneity near the pumping and observation wells. Applications of a model assuming homogeneity to the estimation of aquifer parameters as such may require a large number of observation wells to obtain representative parameter values. In conclusion, we advocate that the governing equation for variably saturated flow through heterogeneous media is a more appropriate and realistic model that explains the S-shaped drawdown-time curves observed in the field.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology