Domestic Well Capture Zone and Influence of the Gravel Pack Length


Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8629; 530-752-2709; fax: (530) 752-5262;


Domestic wells in North America and elsewhere are typically constructed at relatively shallow depths and with the sand or gravel pack extending far above the intake screen of the well (shallow well seal). The source areas of these domestic wells and the effect of an extended gravel pack on the source area are typically unknown, and few resources exist for estimating these. In this article, we use detailed, high-resolution ground water modeling to estimate the capture zone (source area) of a typical domestic well located in an alluvial aquifer. Results for a wide range of aquifer and gravel pack hydraulic conductivities are compared to a simple analytical model. Correction factors for the analytical model are computed based on statistical regression of the numerical results against the analytical model. This tool can be applied to estimate the source area of a domestic well for a wide range of conditions. We show that an extended gravel pack above the well screen may contribute significantly to the overall inflow to a domestic well, especially in less permeable aquifers, where that contribution may range from 20% to 50% and that an extended gravel pack may lead to a significantly elongated capture zone, in some instances, nearly doubling the length of the capture zone. Extending the gravel pack much above the intake screen therefore significantly increases the vulnerability of the water source.