A heterogeneity model comparison of highly resolved statistically anisotropic aquifers

Erica R. Siirila-Woodburn, Reed M. Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Aquifer heterogeneity is known to affect solute characteristics such as spatial spreading, mixing, and residence time, and is often modeled geostatistically to address aquifer uncertainties. While parameter uncertainty is often considered, the model uncertainty of the heterogeneity structure is frequently ignored. In this high-resolution heterogeneity model comparison, we perform a stochastic analysis utilizing spatial moment and breakthrough curve (BTC) metrics on Gaussian (G), truncated Gaussian (TG), and non-Gaussian, or "facies" (F) heterogeneous domains. Three-dimensional plume behavior is rigorously assessed with meter (horizontal) and cm (vertical) scale discretization over a ten-kilometer aquifer. Model differences are quantified as a function of statistical anisotropy, ε, by varying the x-direction integral scale of hydraulic conductivity, K, from 15 to 960 (m). We demonstrate that the model is important only for certain metrics within a range of ε. For example, spreading is insensitive to the model selection at low ε, but not at high ε. In contrast, center of mass is sensitive to the model selection at low ε, and not at high ε. A conceptual model to explain these trends is proposed and validated with BTC metrics. Simulations show that G model effective K, and 1st and 2nd spatial moments are much greater than that of TG and F models. A comparison of G and TG models (which only differ in K-distribution tails) reveal drastically different behavior, exemplifying how accurate characterization of the K-distribution may be important in modeling efforts, especially in aquifers where extreme K values are often not measured, or inadvertently overlooked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Breakthrough curve
  • Geostatistics
  • Heterogeneous
  • High resolution
  • Spatial moment
  • Uncertainty


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