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Water Resources Research

Determination of fluid flow properties from the response of water levels in wells to atmospheric loading

Authors

  • Stuart Rojstaczer


Abstract

The water level in a well that taps a partially confined aquifer is often sensitive to atmospheric loading. The magnitude and character of this response is partly governed by the well radius, the lateral hydraulic diffusivity of the aquifer, the thickness and vertical pneumatic diffusivity of the unsaturated zone, and the thickness and vertical hydraulic diffusivity of the saturated zone overlying the aquifer. These key elements can be combined into five dimensionless parameters that partly govern the phase and attenuation of the response. In many cases, the response of a well to atmospheric loading can be broken up into a high-, intermediate-, and low-frequency response. The high-frequency response is governed largely by the well radius and lateral diffusivity of the aquifer. The intermediate-frequency response is governed by the loading efficiency of the aquifer. The low-frequency response is governed by the vertical pneumatic diffusivity and thickness of the unsaturated zone and the vertical hydraulic diffusivity and thickness of the saturated material above the aquifer. Cross-spectral estimation is used to fit the response to atmospheric loading of three water wells to the theoretical curves in order to yield estimates of three of the key dimensionless parameters. These estimates then are used to make estimates or place bounds on the vertical pneumatic diffusivity of the unsaturated zone, the lateral permeability of the aquifer, and the composite vertical hydraulic diffusivity of the overlying saturated materials.

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