Reconstruction of the Water Table from Self-Potential Data: A Bayesian Approach

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Ground water flow associated with pumping and injection tests generates self-potential signals that can be measured at the ground surface and used to estimate the pattern of ground water flow at depth. We propose an inversion of the self-potential signals that accounts for the heterogeneous nature of the aquifer and a relationship between the electrical resistivity and the streaming current coupling coefficient. We recast the inversion of the self-potential data into a Bayesian framework. Synthetic tests are performed showing the advantage in using self-potential signals in addition to in situ measurements of the potentiometric levels to reconstruct the shape of the water table. This methodology is applied to a new data set from a series of coordinated hydraulic tomography, self-potential, and electrical resistivity tomography experiments performed at the Boise Hydrogeophysical Research Site, Idaho. In particular, we examine one of the dipole hydraulic tests and its reciprocal to show the sensitivity of the self-potential signals to variations of the potentiometric levels under steady-state conditions. However, because of the high pumping rate, the response was also influenced by the Reynolds number, especially near the pumping well for a given test. Ground water flow in the inertial laminar flow regime is responsible for nonlinearity that is not yet accounted for in self-potential tomography. Numerical modeling addresses the sensitivity of the self-potential response to this problem.