Spatial correlation analysis between hydraulic conductivity and specific storage in a heterogeneous sandbox by hydraulic tomography

Liqun Jiang, Ronglin Sun, Wei Xiao, Xing Liang, Tian Chyi Jim Yeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Hydraulic conductivity (K) and specific storage (Ss) are closely related to porosity, the compressibility of aquifer skeleton, connectivity of pores, sorting of the grains, and many others. These well-known relationships promote the investigation of the correlation between spatially varying K and Ss values and their sensitivity to the overlying materials stresses in heterogeneous aquifers. However, the costs of the field experiments for this investigation limit us to a laboratory heterogeneous sandbox aquifer. Before the laboratory experiments, we conducted numerical experiments to verify our tools and approaches. Specifically, we tested the ability of the recently developed hydraulic tomography (HT) for mapping K and Ss fields in two cases. One case in which Ss field was correlated with the K field, and the other was uncorrelated. With the assurance of the ability of our approaches, the laboratory experiments mimicking the numerical ones followed. Accurate drawdown predictions of different flow events in the laboratory experiments further guarantee the reliability of the estimated detailed K and Ss fields. The estimated K and Ss fields reveal that the Ss field's variability is much less significant than K and has much longer correlation scales. Further, the K distribution is closely related to the distribution of sand grain sizes in the sandbox, while Ss is not. Moreover, Ss estimates show a decreasing trend with depth. This trend does not exist in K estimates, indicating that Ss is highly sensitive to overburden stresses and K is not. Lastly, there is no clear spatial correlation between K and Ss, and the variability of Ss is critical in predicting the transient behavior of groundwater flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number127921
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Hydraulic tomography
  • Laboratory sandbox
  • Spatial correlation
  • Specific storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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