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Ground Water. 2008 Jan-Feb;46(1):120-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2007.00374.x.

Practical issues in imaging hydraulic conductivity through hydraulic tomography.

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  • 1IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA. walter.illman@uowa.edu


Hydraulic tomography has been developed as an alternative to traditional geostatistical methods to delineate heterogeneity patterns in parameters such as hydraulic conductivity (K) and specific storage (S(s)). During hydraulic tomography surveys, a large number of hydraulic head data are collected from a series of cross-hole tests in the subsurface. These head data are then used to interpret the spatial distribution of K and S(s) using inverse modeling. Here, we use the Sequential Successive Linear Estimator (SSLE) of Yeh and Liu (2000) to interpret synthetic pumping test data created through numerical simulations and real data generated in a laboratory sandbox aquifer to obtain the K tomograms. Here, we define "K tomogram" as an image of K distribution of the subsurface (or the inverse results) obtained via hydraulic tomography. We examine the influence of signal-to-noise ratio and biases on results using inverse modeling of synthetic and real cross-hole pumping test data. To accomplish this, we first show that the pumping rate, which affects the signal-to-noise ratio, and the order of data included into the SSLE algorithm both have large impacts on the quality of the K tomograms. We then examine the role of conditioning on the K tomogram and find that conditioning can improve the quality of the K tomogram, but can also impair it, if the data are of poor quality and conditioning data have a larger support volume than the numerical grid used to conduct the inversion. Overall, these results show that the quality of the K tomogram depends on the design of pumping tests, their conduct, the order in which they are included in the inverse code, and the quality as well as the support volume of additional data that are used in its computation.

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