Laboratory sandbox validation of transient hydraulic tomography

X. Liu, W. A. Illman, A. J. Craig, J. Zhu, T. C.J. Yeh

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138 Scopus citations


Hydraulic tomography is a method that images the hydraulic heterogeneity of the subsurface through the inversion of multiple pumping or cross-hole hydraulic test data. Transient hydraulic tomography is different from steady state hydraulic tomography in that it utilizes transient hydraulic head records to yield the distribution of hydraulic conductivity (K) as well as specific storage (Ss) of an aquifer. In this paper we demonstrate the robustness of transient hydraulic tomography through the use of hydraulic head data obtained from multiple cross-hole pumping tests conducted in a laboratory sandbox with deterministic heterogeneity. We utilize the algorithm developed by Zhu and Yeh (2005) to conduct the transient inversions and validate the K and Ss tomograms using a multimethod and multiscale validation approach previously proposed by Illman et al. (2006). Validation data consist of cross-hole tests not used in the inversion as well as other hydraulic tests that provided local (core, single-hole tests) as well as large-scale (unidirectional flow-through tests) estimates of hydraulic parameters. Results show that the algorithm is able to yield consistent estimates that agree with independently collected local as well as large-scale hydraulic parameter data. In addition, we find that the transient hydraulic tomography requires a fewer number of pumping tests to estimate a similar quality K tomogram when compared with steady state hydraulic tomography, as the former approach utilizes more data from each pumping test. Overall, we find that transient hydraulic tomography is a robust subsurface characterization technique that can delineate the subsurface heterogeneity in both K and Ss from multiple pumping or crosshole hydraulic tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW05404
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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