Groundwater flow in hard-rock aquifers is strongly controlled by the characteristics and distribution of structural heterogeneity. A methodology for catchment-scale characterisation is presented, based on the integration of complementary, multi-scale hydrogeological, geophysical and geological approaches. This was applied to three contrasting catchments underlain by metamorphic rocks in the northern parts of Ireland (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, UK). Cross-validated surface and borehole geophysical investigations confirm the discontinuous overburden, lithological compartmentalisation of the bedrock and important spatial variations of the weathered bedrock profiles at macro-scale. Fracture analysis suggests that the recent (Alpine) tectonic fabric exerts strong control on the internal aquifer structure at meso-scale, which is likely to impact on the anisotropy of aquifer properties. The combination of the interpretation of depth-specific hydraulic-test data with the structural information provided by geophysical tests allows characterisation of the hydrodynamic properties of the identified aquifer units. Regionally, the distribution of hydraulic conductivities can be described by inverse power laws specific to the aquifer litho-type. Observed groundwater flow directions reflect this multi-scale structure. The proposed integrated approach applies widely available investigative tools to identify key dominant structures controlling groundwater flow, characterising the aquifer type for each catchment and resolving the spatial distribution of relevant aquifer units and associated hydrodynamic parameters.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Water Science and Technology