Volume 30, Issue 2 (March 2007)
Falling-Head Permeability Tests in an Unconfined Sand Aquifer
This paper examines the reliability of hydraulic conductivity estimates, k, obtained using equations of Hvorslev (1951) or Bouwer and Rice (1976) for falling-head tests in monitoring wells (MWs) having short screens at the bottom of an unconfined sand aquifer. Two issues are examined. First, the equations come from the theory of steady-state flow whereas a variable-head test means transient flow with a changing water table position. This first problem was investigated using a finite element analysis, taking into account the sand capillary retention curve and its saturated-unsaturated permeability. The main result was that the equations can still be used for variable-head tests. The effects of specific storage (elastic deformation of the solid matrix in saturated conditions) and delayed gravity drainage (frequently schematized by a specific yield) can be neglected for these tests. The second issue is how partial clogging or fine particle washing against the screen can influence the k value. This practical problem was investigated by using a surge block to develop MWs and then performing successive permeability tests to assess the effects of development. Before development, the tests provided k values in the range 1 to 12×10-2 cm/s, the average being equal to 2/3 of the large-scale k value obtained using a pumping test under steady-state condition. After development, the tests provided k values that were increased by 50% on average, and thus their mean value became almost equal to the pumping test k value.