Water Resources Research

Simultaneous estimation of local-scale and flow path-scale dual-domain mass transfer parameters using geoelectrical monitoring



[1] Anomalous solute transport, modeled as rate-limited mass transfer, has an observable geoelectrical signature that can be exploited to infer the controlling parameters. Previous experiments indicate the combination of time-lapse geoelectrical and fluid conductivity measurements collected during ionic tracer experiments provides valuable insight into the exchange of solute between mobile and immobile porosity. Here, we use geoelectrical measurements to monitor tracer experiments at a former uranium mill tailings site in Naturita, Colorado. We use nonlinear regression to calibrate dual-domain mass transfer solute-transport models to field data. This method differs from previous approaches by calibrating the model simultaneously to observed fluid conductivity and geoelectrical tracer signals using two parameter scales: effective parameters for the flow path upgradient of the monitoring point and the parameters local to the monitoring point. We use regression statistics to rigorously evaluate the information content and sensitivity of fluid conductivity and geophysical data, demonstrating multiple scales of mass transfer parameters can simultaneously be estimated. Our results show, for the first time, field-scale spatial variability of mass transfer parameters (i.e., exchange-rate coefficient, porosity) between local and upgradient effective parameters; hence our approach provides insight into spatial variability and scaling behavior. Additional synthetic modeling is used to evaluate the scope of applicability of our approach, indicating greater range than earlier work using temporal moments and a Lagrangian-based Damköhler number. The introduced Eulerian-based Damköhler is useful for estimating tracer injection duration needed to evaluate mass transfer exchange rates that range over several orders of magnitude.