Do Conservative Solutes Migrate at Average Pore-Water Velocity?


According to common understanding, the advective velocity of a conservative solute equals the average linear pore‐water velocity. Yet direct monitoring indicates that the two velocities may be different in heterogeneous media. For example, at the Camp Dodge, Iowa, site the advective velocity of discrete Cl- plumes was less than one tenth of the average pore‐water velocity calculated from Darcy's law using the measured hydraulic gradient, effective porosity, and hydraulic conductivity (K) from large‐scale three‐dimensional (3D) techniques, e.g., pumping tests. Possibly, this difference reflects the influence of different pore systems, if the K relevant to transient solute flux is influenced more by lower‐K heterogeneity than a steady or quasi‐steady water flux.

To test this idea, tracer tests were conducted under controlled laboratory conditions. Under one‐dimensional flow conditions, the advective velocity of discrete conservative solutes equaled the average pore‐water velocity determined from volumetric flow rates and Darcy's law. In a larger 3D flow system, however, the same solutes migrated at ∼65% of the average pore‐water velocity. These results, coupled with direct observation of dye tracers and their velocities as they migrated through both homogeneous and heterogeneous sections of the same model, demonstrate that heterogeneity can slow the advective velocity of discrete solute plumes relative to the average pore‐water velocity within heterogeneous 3D flow sytems.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

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