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EAS 44600 Groundwater Hydrology Lecture 12: Well Hydraulics 1 Dr.

Pengfei Zhang Radial Flow to a Well The exploitation of a groundwater basin leads to water-level declines that limit the yields of the basin. Therefore, one of the primary goals of groundwater resource evaluation is to predict hydraulic-head drawdowns in aquifers under proposed pumping schemes. As mentioned in previous lectures, a pumping cone, or cone of depression, will form in the aquifer around a pumping well as the water level declines. In this lecture we will discuss how to compute the decline in the water level, or drawdown, around a pumping well if we know the hydrologic properties of the aquifer. Groundwater flows to a well as if it moves along the spokes of a wagon wheel toward the hub. In other words, flow toward a well is radial. Since hydraulic-head drawdowns around a well possess radial symmetry in an idealized system, it is advantageous to convert Cartesian coordinates to radial coordinates. In Cartesian coordinates, two-dimensional groundwater flow in a confined aquifer with transmissivity T and storativity S is: 2h 2h S h + = x 2 y 2 T t (12-1)

Equation 12-1 can be transformed to radial coordinates through the relation, r = x 2 + y 2 , and the resulting equation is:

2 h 1 h S h + = r 2 r r T t


where h is the hydraulic head, S is storativity, T is the transmissivity, t is time, and r is the radial distance from the pumping well. Flow in a Completely Confined Aquifer As discussed in previous lectures, pumping from a completely confined aquifer will cause drawdowns of the potentiometric surface, and water is released from storage by expansion of water due to decreased fluid pressure and by expulsion of water due to aquifer compaction under increased effective stress. For a confined aquifer, the storativity (S) is small (0.005 or less), and pumping affects a relatively large area of the aquifer. Furthermore, if there is no recharge, the area of drawdown of the potentiometric surface will expand indefinitely as pumping continues.


To determine the drawdown of the potentiometric surface for a completely confined aquifer, we need to solve the partial differential equation 12-2 with proper initial and boundary conditions. In this case, the initial condition is that at t = 0 the hydraulic head is ho at all distance r:

h(r ,0) = ho

for all r


The boundary conditions assume no drawdown in hydraulic head at the infinite boundary:

h(, t ) = ho
and a constant pumping rate Q at the well:

for all t


h Q = r 2T

for t > 0


Equation 12-5 is the result of a straightforward application of Darcys law at the well face. From Darcys law, groundwater water flow (Q) through a circular section of the aquifer toward the well is the product of the hydraulic conductivity (K), the area of the circular section, and the hydraulic gradient (dh/dr). The area of a circular section is 2rb , where r is the radius of the circle, and b is the thickness of the aquifer (Figure 12-1). Therefore, flow through the circular section is: dh Q = K (2rb) (12-6) dr

Figure 12-1. Fully penetrating well pumping from a confined aquifer (Fetter).

Since transmissivity (T) is equal to Kb, equation 12-6 can also be expressed as


dh Q = 2rT dr Rearranging equation 12-7 yields equation 12-5.


The solution h(r,t) describes the hydraulic head field at any distance r at any time after the start of pumping. As illustrated in Figure 12-1, solutions are often presented in terms of the drawdown in hydraulic head ho - h. Theis utilized an analogy to heat-flow theory to arrive at an analytical solution to equation 12-2 under the initial and boundary conditions listed in equations 12-3 through 12-5. Assumptions made to derive the solution included: 1. The aquifer is confined top and bottom. 2. No recharge occurs to the confined aquifer. 3. The aquifer is compressible and water is released instantaneously from the aquifer as the hydraulic head is lowered. 4. The well is pumped at a constant rate. The solution that Theis arrived is known as Theis or nonequilibrium equation: ho h = where r 2S u= 4Tt (12-9) Q 4T

e u du u


where ho is the initial hydraulic head, h is the hydraulic head at time t, ho-h is the drawdown, Q is the constant pumping rate, T is the transmissivity, S is the storativity, r is the radial distance from the pumping well, and t is the time since pumping starts. It is noted that Q is a pumping rate in cubic meter or cubic feet per day. Even if the well is pumped for less than 24 hours, the rate of pumping must still be expressed in terms of volume per day. The integral in equation 12-8 is called the exponential integral. For the specific definition of u given by equation 12-9, the integral is known as the well function, W(u). Equation 12-8 is therefore becomes ho h = Q W (u ) 4T (12-10)

Appendix 1 of Fetter (2001) provides values of W(u) versus u, and Figure 12-2 shows the relationship between W(u) and u graphically.


Figure 12-2. Relationship between well function W(u) and u (Theis curve). To calculate drawdown at time t and distance r, the value of u is first calculated using equation 12-9. The value of well function W(u) is found from Appendix 1 (attached) for this particular value of u. The drawdown is then calculated using equation 12-10.
Flow in a Leaky, Confined Aquifer

In last section we discussed flow in a completely confined aquifer where no recharge occurs. Most confined aquifers, however, are not totally isolated from sources of vertical recharge. For example, aquitards (confining layers) above or below the aquifer may leak water into the confined aquifer under favorable hydraulic gradient conditions (Figure 12-3).

Figure 12-3. Fully penetrating well in an aquifer overlain by a semi-permeable confining layer (Fetter). The two-dimensional equation for confined flow with vertical leakage in radial coordinates is:


2 h 1 h w S h + + = r 2 r r T T t


where w is the rate of vertical leakage that can be found from Darcys law. The vertical hydraulic conductivity of the leaky confining layer (aquitard) is K. The vertical hydraulic gradient is the drawdown, ho-h, divided by the thickness of the leaky confining layer, b. The leakage rates is therefore w = K ' ho h b' (12-12)

Substituting equation 12-12 into equation 12-11, we have: 2 h 1 h (ho h) K ' S h + = Tb' T t r 2 r r (12-13)

where K is the vertical hydraulic conductivity of the leaky layer, b is the thickness of the leaky layer, h is hydraulic head, ho is the initial hydraulic head, ho-h is the drawdown, r is the radial distance from the pumping well, t is the time, S is the storativity, and T is the transmissivity. Huntush and Jacob solved equation 12-13 with the following assumptions: 1. All the water flowing to the pumping well came from either the storage of the confined aquifer or leakage across the confining layer. 2. No water was derived from the storage of the confining layer. In analogy with Theis equation (12-8), we can write Hantush-Jacob equation as ho h = r 2S u= 4Tt
K' r =r Tb' B

Q W (u, r / B) 4T




where Q is the pumping rate, ho-h is the drawdown in the confined aquifer, T is the transmissivity of the confined aquifer, S is the storativity of the confined aquifer, W(u, r/B) is the leaky well function, r is the distance from the pumping well to the observation well, t is the time since pumping starts, b is the thickness of the confining layer, and K is the hydraulic conductivity of the confining layer. Values of the leaky well function are provided by Fetter (2001) in Appendix 3.


To calculate drawdown at time t and distance r for a leaky aquifer, the values of u and r/B are first calculated using equations 12-15 and 12-16, respectively. The value of leaky well function W(u,r/B) is found from Appendix 3 (attached) for the particular set of u and r/B. The drawdown is then calculated using equation 12-14.