Backward Location and Travel Time Probabilities for Pollutants Moving in Three-Dimensional Aquifers: Governing Equations and Scale Effect

Chaloemporn Ponprasit, Yong Zhang, Wei Wei
2022 Water  
Backward probabilities have been used for decades to track hydrologic targets such as pollutants in water, but the convenient deviation and scale effect of backward probabilities remain unknown. This study derived backward probabilities for groundwater pollutants and evaluated their scale effect in heterogeneous aquifers. Three particle-moving methods, including the backward-in-time discrete random-walk (DRW), the backward-in-time continuous time random-walk (CTRW), and the particle mass
more » ... , were proposed to derive the governing equation of backward location and travel time probabilities of contaminants. The resultant governing equations verified Kolmogorov's backward equation and extended it to transient flow fields and aquifers with spatially varying porosity values. An improved backward-in-time random walk particle tracking technique was then applied to approximate the backward probabilities. Next, the scale effect of backward probabilities of contamination was analyzed quantitatively. Numerical results showed that the backward probabilities were sensitive to the vertical location and length of screened intervals in a three-dimensional heterogeneous alluvial aquifer, whereas the variation in borehole diameters did not influence the backward probabilities. The scale effect of backward probabilities was due to different flow paths reaching individual intervals under strong influences of subsurface hydrodynamics and heterogeneity distributions, even when the well screen was as short as ~2 m and surrounded by highly permeable sediments. Further analysis indicated that if the scale effect was ignored, significant errors may appear in applications of backward probabilities of groundwater contamination. This study, therefore, provides convenient methods to build backward probability models and sheds light on applications relying on backward probabilities with a scale effect.
doi:10.3390/w14040624 fatcat:r354dbgctzh4dcgj62iwup4xpi