Key Features of Artificial Aquifers for Use in Modeling Contaminant Transport


Institute of Environmental Science & Research, P.O. Box 29181, Christchurch 8540, New Zealand; (643) 351 6019; fax: (643) 351 0010;


Two large-scale (9.5 m long, 4.7 m wide, 2.6 m deep), three-dimensional artificial aquifers were constructed to investigate the influence of spatial variations in aquifer properties on contaminant transport. One aquifer was uniformly filled with coarse sand media (0.6 to 2.0 mm) and the other was constructed as a heterogeneous aquifer using blocks of fine, medium, and coarse sands. The key features of these artificial aquifers are described. An innovative deaeration tower was constructed to overcome a problem of the aquifers becoming blocked with excess air from the ground water source. A series of tracer injection experiments were conducted to test the homogeneity of the first aquifer that was purposely built as a homogeneous aquifer and to calculate values of aquifer parameters. Experimental data show that the aquifer is slightly heterogeneous, and hydraulic conductivity values are significantly higher down one side of the aquifer compared to the mean value. There was very good agreement in estimated dispersivity values between the plume area ratio methods and the curve fitting of tracer breakthrough curves. Dispersivity estimates from a full areal source injection (12.2 m2) experiment using a 1D analytical model were higher than estimates from a limited source injection (0.2 m2) experiment using a 3D model, possibly because the 1D model does not take account of the heterogeneity of hydraulic conductivity in the aquifer, thus overestimating dispersivity. Transverse and vertical dispersivity values were about five times less than the longitudinal dispersivity. There was slight sorption of Rhodamine WT onto the aquifer media.