Universal scaling of hydraulic conductivities and dispersivities in geologic media

Shlomo P. Neuman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

561 Scopus citations


An interpretation is offered for the observation that dispersivities increase with scale. Apparent longitudinal dispersivity data from a variety of hydrogeologic settings are assumed to represent a continuous hierarchy of log hydraulic conductivity fields with mutually uncorrelated increments, each field having its own exponential autocovariance, associated integral scale, and variance that increases as a power of scale. Such a hierarchy is shown theoretically to form a self‐similar random field with homogeneous increments. Regardless of whether or not the underlying assumption is valid, one can justify interpreting the apparent dispersivities in a manner consistent with a recent quasi‐linear theory of non‐Fickian and Fickian dispersion in homogeneous media which supports the notion of a self‐similar hierarchy a posteriori. The hierarchy is revealed to possess a semivariogram γ(s;) ≊ cs½, where c is a constant, and a fractal dimension D ≊ E + 0.75, where E is the topological dimension of interest. This can be viewed as a universal scaling rule about which large deviations occur due to local influences including the existence of discrete natural scales at which log hydraulic conductivity is statistically homogeneous. As such homogeneity is at best a local phenomenon occurring intermittently over narrow bands of the scale spectrum, one must question the utility of associating medium properties with representative elementary volumes and relying on Fickian models of dispersion over more than relatively narrow scale intervals. Porous and fractured media appear to follow the same idealized scaling rule for both flow and transport, raising a question about the validity of many distinctions commonly drawn between such media. Finally, the data suggest that conditioning transport models through calibration against hydraulic measurements has the effect of filtering out large‐scale modes from the hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1749-1758
Number of pages10
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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