An efficient approach to imaging underground hydraulic networks



To better locate natural resources, treat pollution, and monitor underground networks associated with geothermal plants, nuclear waste repositories, and carbon dioxide sequestration sites, scientists need to be able to accurately characterize and image fluid seepage pathways below ground. With these images, scientists can gain knowledge of soil moisture content, the porosity of geologic formations, concentrations and locations of dissolved pollutants, and the locations of oil fields or buried liquid contaminants. Creating images of the unknown hydraulic environments underfoot is a difficult task that has typically relied on broad extrapolations from characteristics and tests of rock units penetrated by sparsely positioned boreholes. Such methods, however, cannot identify small-scale features and are very expensive to reproduce over a broad area. Further, the techniques through which information is extrapolated rely on clunky and mathematically complex statistical approaches requiring large amounts of computational power.