Natural attenuation with varying degrees of aquifer heterogeneity: Implications for groundwater monitoring



This study evaluated the effect of heterogeneity in hydraulic conductivity on the tendency for contaminant plumes to attenuate via dilution, hydrodynamic dispersion, and molecular diffusion in simulated aquifers. Simulations included one homogeneous and four increasingly heterogeneous hydraulic conductivity fields. A numerical mass transport model generated an initial contaminant plume for each case; all initial plumes had the same mass. Next, the model simulated plume migrations through the simulated aquifers. Results suggest that highly heterogeneous settings are potentially effective at plume attenuation. Low-velocity zones in heterogeneous settings delay plume travel, enabling more time for natural processes to lower contaminant concentrations in groundwater. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.