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# Theory of Groundwater Flow

Topics
1. Differential Equations of Groundwater
Flow
2. Boundary conditions
3. Initial Conditions for groundwater
problems
4. FlowNet analysis
5. Mathematical analysis of some simple
flow problems
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## 5.1. Differential Equations

Examples of useful use of flow equations in
solving Hydro Problems
(1) WL drop around a well after 10 years of
pumping
(2) Contaminant concentration changes
after 5 years of remediation (cleanup)
(3) Change in storage of aquifer after use of
50 years
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Mathematical approach

by an equation

## Result is hydraulic head (space, time)

How is it done?
An illustrative example:
A. A geological problem

Silty Sand
Sand
Shale

How is it done?
An illustrative example:
B. Conceptualized mathematical problem
Water Table: variable head boundary
Side Noflow
boundary

K=1
K = 10

Side Noflow
boundary

## Top of shale = base of aquifer

= NO-Flow boundary

How is it done?
An illustrative example:
C. Calculating the hydraulic head distribution
(governing equations)
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78

80

82

84
K=1
K = 10

K =86
1

88

h= 90

K = 10

Deriving Groundwater
flow Equations
principle of mass
conservation

Darcy's Law

GW Flow equations

Deriving Groundwater
flow Equations
Representative
Elementary
Volume (REV)
z

## Mass inflow rate - mass outflow rate =

change in storage with time
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## The main equation of

groundwater flow

h
h
( K x ) ( K y ) ( Kz ) S s
x
x y
y z
z
t
This is a linear parabolic partial differential equation
Its the main equation of groundwater flow in
saturated media
It is solvable only by numerical methods
the solution of which yields h (x,y,z,t) in a
heterogeneous, anisotropic confined aquifer.
Also known as the Diffusion Equation
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## Simplifications of the equation

(1) for homogeneous
but anisotropic
aquifer:

2h
2h
2h
h
K x 2 K y 2 Kz 2 S s
x
y
z
t

## (2) for homogeneous

and isotropic

2 h 2 h 2 h S s h
2 2
2
x
y
z
K t

2 h 2 h S h
2
2
x
y
T t

2h 2h 2h
2 2 0
2
x
y
z
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Laplace equation
2h 2h 2h

0
2
2
2
x
y
z

## one of the most useful field equations employed in

hydrogeology. The solution to this equation describes
the value of the hydraulic head at any point in a 3dimensional flow field

## Note: the mapped potentiometric surface

represents "solution" to Laplace's equation for
2-dimensional flow field
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## 5.2 Boundary conditions

3 types:
1. Dirichlet Boundary
Condition
Specified head at a boundary
2. Neumann Boundary Condition
Specified water flux at a
boundary
3. Cauchy boundary condition
Relates hydraulic head to water
flux

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## 5.3 Initial Conditions

For steady state equations
Only boundary conditions are needed

## For transient equations:

Boundary and initial conditions are needed

Initial condition:
Provides hydraulic head everywhere within the domain of interest
before simulation begins

h (x , y , z , 0) h0 (x , y , z )
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## Flownets, general features in a 2-D flow domain

1. Streamlines are perpendicular to equipotential
lines. If the hydraulic-head drops between the
equip. lines are the same, the streamlines and
equip. lines form curvilinear squares.
2. The same quantity of ground water flows
between adjacent pairs of flow lines, provided no
flow enters or leaves the region in the internal
part of the net. It follows, then that the number of
flow channels (known as stream tubes) must
remain constant throughout the net.
3. The hydraulic-head drop between two
adjacent equipotential lines is the same.
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## Flownets, strategies for construction

1. Study well-constructed flownets and try to duplicate them by
independently reanalyzing the problems they represent
2. In a first attempt, use only four or five flow channels.
3. Observe the appearance of the entire flownet; do not try to
adjust details until the entire net is approximately correct.
4. Be aware that frequently parts of a flownet consist of straight
and parallel lines, result in uniformly sized squares.
5. In a flow system that has symmetry, only a section of the net
needs to be constructed because the other parts are images of
that section.
6. During the sketching of the net, keep in mind that the size of
the rectangle changes gradually; all transitions are smooth,
and where the paths are curved they are of elliptical or
parabolic shape.

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Flownets, Rules
1.
2.

3.
4.
5.

## A no-flow boundary is a streamline

The water table is a streamline when there is no flow
across the water table, that is, no recharge or ET. When
there is recharge, the water table is neither a flow line
nor an equipotential line.
Streamlines end at extraction wells, drains, and gaining
streams, and they start from injection wells and losing
streams.
Lines dividing a flow system into two symmetric parts
are streamlines.
In natural ground-water systems, streamlines often
begin and end at the water table in areas of groundwater recharge and discharge, respectively.
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## 5.4 Flownet Analysis

From Darcys Eqn in one
flow channel in 2-D:
h
Q T W
L

If we have squares:
Q

nf
T H
nd

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Example 5.3
Q = 1 x 106 ft3/day
Find T?

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## Flow Net Exercise

Draw a flow net for seepage through the earthen dam shown below.
If the hydraulic conductivity of the material used in the dam is 0.22
ft/day, what is the seepage per unit width per day?

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Q T W

Q T1h1

h
L

W1
W2
T2 h2
L1
L2

T1 L1W2

T2 L2 W1
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Example 5.4

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## 5.5 Flow Equations of Simple Problems

Analytical solution only applied to
Regular geometry
Homogeneous
Simple initial and boundary conditions

## Real-world problems can be solved with

numerical methods using computers to handle:

## Variation in hydraulic properties

Large number of wells
Complicated boundary conditions
Groundwater/ surface water interactions
Variable recharge/ET

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2h
0;
2
x

h | x 0 h0 ,

h | x l hL
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Example 5.5

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## Groundwater flow in a unconfined aquifer

Example 5.6
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Chapter Highlights
1. Ground-water hydrologists rely on quantitative mathematical approaches in
analyzing test data and in making predictions about how systems are likely
to behave in the future. The mathematical approach involves representing
the flow process by an equation and solving it. The solution within some
domain or region of interest defines how the hydraulic head varies as a
function of space and time.
2. The flow equations are complicated partial differential equations.
Fortunately, at this introductory level, all one really needs to do is to identify
the equation and extract a few details. In most applications, the solutions
are available in simplified forms. To find the unknown in an equation, simply
find the variable residing in the derivative term.
3. Equations of ground-water flow can be developed, starting with an
appropriate conservation statement of this form
mass inflow rate, -mass outflow rate = change of mass storage with time
The general approach is to apply this equation to a block of porous medium called a
representative elementary volume. It is possible to replace the words in this
equation by mathematical expressions, transforming it to a form that can be
developed to the main equation of ground-water flow in a porous medium

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Chapter Highlights
4. The solution of differential equations requires boundary
conditions. In effect, the boundary conditions stand in for the
conditions outside of the simulation domain and effectively let
one concentrate the modeling on the simulation domain.
5. There are three types of common boundary conditions. The first type or
Dirichlet condition involves providing known values of hydraulic head along
the boundary. The second type or Neumann condition requires specification
of water fluxes along a boundary. A no-flow boundary (water flux zero) is the
most well-known second-type boundary condition. The third-type or Cauchy
boundary condition relates hydraulic head to water flux. This boundary
condition is commonly used to represent ground-water/surface-water
interactions.
6. For transient equations, in which the hydraulic head can change as a function
of time, it is necessary to define the initial condition. The initial condition
provides the hydraulic head everywhere within the domain of interest before
the simulation begins (that is, at time zero).

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Chapter Highlights
7. A variety of mathematical and graphical approaches are available to
solve ground-water- flow equations. One approach that is
emphasized in this chapter is called the flownet analysis. For
relatively simple, two-dimensional, steady-state flow problems, you
can determine the distribution of equipotential lines graphically.
Starting with an outline of the simulation domain, one adds
streamlines and equipotential lines following a set of rules. For
example, streamlines and equipotential lines must intersect at right
angles to form a set of curvilinear squares. If you are careful, you
can develop the unique pattern (and reproducible pattern) that
describes flow in the domain.
8. This chapter demonstrates how simple analytical solutions can be
used to describe some simple steady-state problems of flow. We
will return to analytical solutions again in Chapters 8-11 on well
hydraulics and regional ground-water flow.

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