Three-dimensional saturated-unsaturated flow with axial symmetry to a partially penetrating well in a compressible unconfined aquifer

Guzel D. Tartakovsky, Shlomo P. Neuman

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82 Scopus citations


A new analytical solution is presented for the delayed response process characterizing flow to a partially penetrating well in an unconfined aquifer. The new solution generalizes that of Neuman (1972, 1974) by accounting for unsaturated flow above the water table. Three-dimensional, axially symmetric flow in the unsaturated zone is described by a linearized version of Richards' equation in which hydraulic conductivity and water content vary exponentially with incremental capillary pressure head relative to its air entry value (defining the interface between the saturated and unsaturated zones). Unsaturated soil properties are characterized by an exponent κ having the dimension of inverse length or, equivalently, a dimensionless exponent κD = κb, where b is initial saturated thickness. Our treatment of the unsaturated zone is similar to that of Kroszynski and Dagan (1975), who, however, have ignored internal (artesian) aquifer storage. According to Kroszynski and Dagan, aquifers that are not excessively shallow have values of κD (their parameter a) much greater than 10. We find that in such typical cases, unsaturated flow has little impact on early and late dimensionless time drawdown a short distance below the water table. Unsaturated flow causes drawdown to increase slightly at intermediate dimensionless time values that represent transition from an early artesian-dominated to a late water-table-dominated flow regime. Delayed drainage from the unsaturated zone becomes less and less important as κD increases; as κD → ∞, this effect dies out, and drawdown is controlled entirely by delayed decline in the water table as in the model of Neuman. The unsaturated zone has a major impact on drawdown at intermediate time and a significant impact at early and late times, in the atypical case of κD ≤ 1, becoming the dominant factor as κD approaches zero (the soil water retention capacity becomes very large and/or saturated thickness becomes insignificant). Our new solution was used to analyze field data from a pumping test conducted by Moench et al. (2001) in a glacial outwash deposit at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The solution was fitted individually and simultaneously to time-drawdown data from 20 piezometers and observation wells and simultaneously to data from three piezometers in each of two clusters at various depths and distances from the pumping well, with very good results. Our parameter estimates of hydraulic conductivities from the simultaneous fit are similar to those obtained previously by Moench (2004), but our estimates of specific yield and storage are smaller and larger, respectively, while our estimate of κ is not comparable with his estimates of three empirical parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW01410
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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