In this study, we developed a stochastic estimator for characterizing the hydraulic heterogeneity in both unsaturated and saturated zones of unconfined aquifers using transient drawdown data from sequential pumping tests. This estimator was built upon the successive linear estimator by Yeh et al. (1996), the simultaneous successive linear estimator by Xiang et al. (2009), and the 3-D finite element program for flow and transport through heterogeneous media by Srivastava and Yeh (1992). The estimator was tested afterward using simulated data sets of sequential pumping tests in a synthetic unconfined aquifer where saturated conductivity, specific storage, saturated water content, and pore-size distribution parameter vary spatially in three dimensions. Test results show that the estimator is able to produce parameter fields that capture the overall 3-D pattern of the true heterogeneous parameter fields. We subsequently validated the estimated parameter fields by assessing their ability to predict drawdowns during an independent pumping test, which was not used during the estimation phase. Results of the validation show that the predicted drawdowns based on the estimated heterogeneous parameter fields are in close agreement with the true drawdowns. In addition, predicted drawdowns based on the parameter fields from the joint interpretation are superior to those based on the parameters estimated from the homogeneous conceptual model. Lastly, while many field experiments are necessary to fully assess the robustness of this estimator and sequential pumping tests, results of this study suggest they are a promising characterization technique for unconfined aquifers.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Water Science and Technology