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Multi-scale integrated characterization of heterogeneous hydraulic and thermal properties of a deltaic aquifer

Abstract : Historically, heat and temperature observations have been occasionally used to help understand aquifer systems or constrain numerical flow models. However, the development of fiber optics (FO) as part of the Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) technology has spun a renewed interest in the use of heat as a groundwater tracer. Recent studies have shown the possibility to carry out an active heat tracer test using fiber optics and heating cables installed by direct push and to invert the resulting thermal responses to estimate a vertical profile of groundwater fluxes. However, a better understanding of how FO-DTS results compare to other aquifer characterization methods is needed to guide its future application and integration into a practical workflow. The objective of this study was thus to compare the information provided by FO-DTS with other direct and indirect measurements used to characterize the heterogeneity of granular aquifers at multiple scales. The multiscale integrated characterization was carried out at a heterogeneous deltaic aquifer located north of Quebec City, Canada. This aquifer has been the object of a complete hydrogeological characterization and thus provides a wide range of existing data against which the acquired data can be compared. This communication will focus on the multiscale methodology for the granular aquifer characterization including FO-DTS measurements. Based on an existing numerical hydrogeological model, three sites with a range of horizontal groundwater fluxes were selected for active FO-DTS heat tracer experiments. At one of the sites, direct push monitoring wells were also installed downstream to measure the hydraulic conductivity of the hydrofacies and the arrival of the thermal front from the heat tracer test. A previous study established a relationship between the hydrofacies of the deltaic aquifer to cone penetration test (CPT) response. As such, each FO cable and monitoring well direct-push installation was preceded by a co-located CPT. Soil cores were also taken for laboratory measurements of hydraulic and thermal properties. The vertical profiles of groundwater fluxes from FO-DTS were found to correlate well with the relative magnitude of permeability of the hydrofacies identified with CPT profiles. FO-DTS could thus provide a qualitative or quantitative proxy for hydraulic conductivity and allow the recognition of hydrofacies at a fine scale. At the aquifer scale, the total flux measured by FO-DTS can also be compared to fluxes obtained from numerical models and thus provide a constraint to validate models. Overall, this study shows that not only does FO-DTS provide coherent results with other characterization methods, but it also adds the key measurement of groundwater flux that cannot be easily obtained by other means. FO-DTS thus has the potential to become a significant addition to existing characterization methods for granular aquifers.
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Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon <>
Submitted on : Friday, April 10, 2020 - 11:47:45 AM
Last modification on : Sunday, April 12, 2020 - 1:11:32 AM


  • HAL Id : insu-02539672, version 1



Jean-Marc Ballard, Cynthia Lee, Nataline Simon, Jérôme de la Bernardie, Daniel Paradis, et al.. Multi-scale integrated characterization of heterogeneous hydraulic and thermal properties of a deltaic aquifer. European Geosciences Union General Assembly, Apr 2020, online, Austria. pp.EGU2020-8984. ⟨insu-02539672⟩



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