• A REVIEW OF THE SCALE PROBLEM AND APPLICATIONS OF STOCHASTIC METHODS TO DETERMINE GROUNDWATER TRAVEL TIME AND PATH

      Yeh, T.-C. Jim; Stephens, Daniel B.; Department of Hydrology & Water Resources, The University of Arizona (Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1989)
      The groundwater travel time along the fastest path of likely radionuclide transport is a regulatory criterion used to assess the hydrogeologic quality of a high - level radioactive waste repository. Hydrologists and engineers are limited in their ability to define with confidence the fastest path, owing to the heterogeneous nature of geologic materials. Field measurements of hydraulic properties such as in test or observation wells, are inherently averages of properties at scales smaller than the scale of the field measurement. As a result of averaging, subscale information is lost and there is uncertainty in defining the fastest trajectory of groundwater. This scale problem is explained through a review of the continuum and REV concepts in groundwater hydrology. The application of hydrodynamic dispersion concepts is recommended as a means of incorporating the effect of subscale heterogeneity on the fastest groundwater travel time. Sources of uncertainties in predicting groundwater travel time are discussed in the report. The uncertainties are mainly attributed to the heterogeneous nature of geologic formations. The heterogeneity of geologic materials can, however, be characterized quantitatively using geostatistical methods. Important statistical parameters include mean and variance. as well as the spatial correlation structures of the hydrologic properties within the hydrogeologic system. These parameters may he obtained from limited data base. Stochastic methods, reviewed and explained in this report, can take advantage of the geostatistical characterization to predict large -scale groundwater flow and solute transport. Several examples from recent scientific literature are provided to illustrate the application of stochastic methods to the groundwater travel time analysis. Stochastic methods in subsurface hydrology have only recently been evaluated under field conditions for a few locations, and validation of the theories is incomplete, especially in unsaturated fractured rocks. Nevertheless, research efforts should continue to improve the state -of -the art. Geostatistics and stochastic methods will be valuable tools in addressing the groundwater travel time objective