Steady-state discharge into tunnels in formations with random variability and depth-decaying trend of hydraulic conductivity

Xiao Wei Jiang, Li Wan, Tian Chyi Jim Yeh, Xu Sheng Wang, Liang Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Multi-scale heterogeneity of geological formations is a rule, which consists of random (local-scale) and systematic (large-scale) variability of hydraulic conductivity. The random variability and depth-decaying trend, a systematic variability, have different effects on subsurface flow, thus on groundwater discharge into tunnels. Little research has examined this problem in the past. Using Monte Carlo simulation and information of statistics of heterogeneity, we evaluate the most likely (ensemble average) discharge rate into a tunnel in geologic media with the multi-scale heterogeneity and uncertainty associated with this estimate. We find that the ensemble average discharge rate is larger than the discharge rate predicted by geometric mean of hydraulic conductivity, and smaller than the discharge rate predicted by arithmetic mean of hydraulic conductivity. Moreover, the ensemble average discharge rate decreases with the decay exponent of the depth-decaying trend, and increases with the standard deviation as well as the correlation scale of the stationary log-conductivity fields. We also find that the discharge rate of a tunnel is highly influenced by the hydraulic conductivity near the tunnel. Furthermore, deviation of the true discharge rate from the ensemble average can be large and increases with the decay exponent, standard deviation and correlation scale of log-conductivity fields. The largest uncertainty of discharge rate prediction in the shallow subsurface is controlled by the variability of conductivity fields and the uncertainty at the deep subsurface is by the depth-decaying trend of hydraulic conductivity. Therefore, accurate prediction of groundwater discharge into tunnels requires detailed characterization of multi-scale heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-327
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 15 2010


  • Depth-decaying trend
  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Monte Carlo method
  • Multi-scale heterogeneity
  • Tunnel discharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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