Radar Determination of the Spatial Structure of Hydraulic Conductivity

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Spatial variability of hydraulic conductivity exerts a predominant control on the flow of fluid through porous media. Heterogeneities influence advective pathways, hydrodynamic dispersion, and density-dependent dispersion; they are, therefore, a key concern for studies of ground water resource development, contaminant transport, and reservoir engineering. Ground-penetrating radar contributes to the remote, geophysical characterization of the macroscale variability of natural porous media. On a controlled excavation of a glacial-fluvial sand and gravel deposit in the Fan-shawe Delta area (Ontario, Canada), the hydraulic conductivity field of a 45 × 3 m vertical exposure was characterized using constant-head permeameter measurements performed on undisturbed horizontal sediment cores. Ground-penetrating radar data were collected along the excavation face in the form of both reflection and common midpoint surveys. Comparison of geostatistical analyses of the permeameter measurements and the radar data suggests that the horizontal correlation structure of radar stack velocity can be used to directly infer the horizontal correlation structure of hydraulic conductivity. The averaging nature of the common midpoint survey is manifest in the vertical correlation structure of stack velocity, making it less useful. Radar reflection data do not exhibit a spatial structure similar to that of hydraulic conductivity possibly because reflections are a result of material property contrasts rather than the material properties themselves.