Thursday, January 16, 2014

IARF and the Cooper and Jacob Method

Groundwater hydrologists routinely use the pumping test interpretation method of Cooper and Jacob (1946), a straight-line approximation of the Theis (1935) type-curve solution, to estimate the hydraulic properties of nonleaky confined aquifers from drawdown data measured during the period of infinite-acting radial flow (IARF) when drawdown changes linearly with the logarithm of time. One expects to find IARF after the dissipation of early-time phenomena (e.g., wellbore storage) and prior to the advent of late-time effects such as aquifer boundaries.

Consider the well-known Theis solution for a constant-rate pumping test in a nonleaky confined aquifer of infinite extent:
..... (1)
..... (2)
..... (3)
..... (4)

where s is drawdown [L], Q is pumping rate [L³/T], T is transmissivity [L²/T], t is time [T], r is radial distance [L] and S is storage coefficient [-].

The Cooper and Jacob method approximates the Theis well function, w(u), by truncating the infinite series in (4) after the first two terms:
..... (5)
The approximation in (5) assumes that u is small, i.e., t is large and r is small. It is precisely when (5) is valid that infinite-acting radial flow is identified from drawdown data.

How small should u be for (5) to be valid? The threshold for IARF (i.e., when Cooper and Jacob becomes valid) is often given as u ≤ 0.05 (Driscoll 1986) or u ≤ 0.01 (Kruseman and de Ridder 1994); however, we can see for ourselves when (5) is valid by plotting w(u) versus 1/u (dimensionless drawdown versus dimensionless time) on semilog axes and looking for a constant logarithmic derivative plateau (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Theis (1935) solution (blue curve) plotted as w(u) versus 1/u on semilog axes. Logarithmic derivative shown by red curve.
It is evident from Figure 1 that the slope of the drawdown and the value of the derivative are each essentially constant when 1/u ≥ 50. Hence, when u ≤ 0.02, the Cooper and Jacob approximation of the Theis well function is safe to use. Figure 1 demonstrates just how useful derivative analysis can be for the detection of the IARF regime.

Visit Aquifer Testing 101 to learn more about pumping test interpretation with more examples of infinite-acting radial flow.

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