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Borehole characterization of hydraulic properties and groundwater flow in a crystalline fractured aquifer of a headwater mountain watershed, Laramie Range, Wyoming

Gragg, Sam
Fractured crystalline aquifers of mountain watersheds may host a significant portion of the world's freshwater supply. To effectively utilize water resources in these environments, it is important to understand the hydraulic properties, groundwater storage, and flow processes in crystalline aquifers and field-derived insights are critically needed. Based on borehole hydraulic characterization and monitoring data, this study inferred hydraulic properties and groundwater flow of a crystalline fractured aquifer in Laramie Range, Wyoming. At three open holes completed in a fractured granite aquifer, both slug tests and FLUTe liner profiling were performed to obtain estimates of horizontal hydraulic conductivity (Kh). Televiewer (i.e., optical and acoustic) and flowmeter logs were then jointly interpreted to identify the number of flowing fractures and fracture zones. Based on these data, hydraulic apertures were obtained for each borehole. Average groundwater velocity was then computed using Kh, aperture, and water level monitoring data. Finally, based on all available data, including cores, borehole logs, LIDAR topography, and a seismic P-wave velocity model, a three dimensional geological model of the site was built. In this fractured aquifer, (1) borehole Kh varies over ~4 orders of magnitude (10−8–10−5 m/s). Kh is consistently higher near the top of the bedrock that is interpreted as the weathering front. Using a cutoff Kh of 10−10 m/s, the hydraulically significant zone extends to ~40–53 m depth. (2) FLUTe-estimated hydraulic apertures of fractures vary over 1 order of magnitude, and at each borehole, the average hydraulic aperture by FLUTe is very close to that obtained from slug tests. Thus, slug test can be used to provide a reliable estimate of the average fracture hydraulic aperture. (3) Estimated average effective fracture porosity is 4.0 × 10−4, therefore this fractured aquifer can host significant quantity of water. (4) Natural groundwater velocity is estimated to range from 0.4 to 81.0 m/day, implying rapid pathways of fracture flow. (5) The average ambient water table position follows the boundary between saprolite and fractured bedrock. Groundwater flow at the site appears topography driven.
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