Quasi-steady state conditions in heterogeneous aquifers during pumping tests

Yuanyuan Zha, Tian Chyi J. Yeh, Liangsheng Shi, Shao Yang Huang, Wenke Wang, Jet Chau Wen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Classical Thiem's well hydraulic theory, other aquifer test analyses, and flow modeling efforts often assume the existence of “quasi-steady” state conditions. That is, while drawdowns due to pumping continue to grow, the hydraulic gradient in the vicinity of the pumping well does not change significantly. These conditions have built upon two-dimensional and equivalent homogeneous conceptual models, but few field data have been available to affirm the existence of these conditions. Moreover, effects of heterogeneity and three-dimensional flow on this quasi-steady state concept have not been thoroughly investigated and discussed before. In this study, we first present a quantitative definition of quasi-steady state (or steady-shape conditions) and steady state conditions based on the analytical solution of two- or three-dimensional flow induced by pumping in unbounded, homogeneous aquifers. Afterward, we use a stochastic analysis to investigate the influence of heterogeneity on the quasi-steady state concept in heterogeneous aquifers. The results of the analysis indicate that the time to reach an approximate quasi-steady state in a heterogeneous aquifer could be quite different from that estimated based on a homogeneous model. We find that heterogeneity of aquifer properties, especially hydraulic conductivity, impedes the development of the quasi-steady state condition before the flow reaching steady state. Finally, 280 drawdown-time data from the hydraulic tomographic survey conducted at a field site corroborate our finding that the quasi-steady state condition likely would not take place in heterogeneous aquifers unless pumping tests last a long period. Research significance (1) Approximate quasi-steady and steady state conditions are defined for two- or three-dimensional flow induced by pumping in unbounded, equivalent homogeneous aquifers. (2) Analysis demonstrates effects of boundary condition, well screen interval, and heterogeneity of parameters on the existence of the quasi-steady, and validity of approximate quasi-steady concept. (3) Temporal evaluation of information content about heterogeneity in head observations are analyzed in heterogeneous aquifer. (4) 280 observed drawdown-time data corroborate the stochastic analysis that quasi-steady is difficult to reach in highly heterogeneous aquifers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-110
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Ergodicity
  • Pumping
  • Quasi-steady
  • Stochastic analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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