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Environmental Assessment

Efficient Hydrologic Tracer-Test Design for Tracer-Mass Estimation and Sample Collection Frequency, 1 Method Development

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Hydrological tracer testing is the most reliable diagnostic technique available for the determination of basic hydraulic and geometric parameters necessary for establishing operative solute-transport processes. Tracer-test design can be difficult because of a lack of prior knowledge of the basic hydraulic and geometric parameters desired and the appropriate tracer mass to release. A new efficient hydrologic tracer-test design (EHTD) methodology has been developed to facilitate the design of tracer tests by root determination of the one-dimensional advection-dispersion equation (ADE) using a preset average tracer concentration which provides a theoretical basis for an estimate of necessary tracer mass. The method uses basic measured field parameters (e.g., discharge, distance, cross-sectional area) that are combined in functional relatipnships that descrive solute-transport processes related to flow velocity and time of travel. These initial estimates for time of travel and velocity are then applied to a hypothetical continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) as an analog for the hydrological-flow system to develop initial estimates for tracer concentration, tracer mass, and axial dispersion. Application of the predicted tracer mass with the hydraulic and geometric parameters in the ADE allows for an approximation of initial sample-collection time and subsequent sample-collection frequency where a maximum of 65 samples were determined to be necessary for describing the predicted tracer-breakthrough curve (BTC). Inclusion of tracer retardation and decay cause a net increase in tracer-mass estimates so that the preset average tracer concentration will be maintained and there will ve a consequent steepening of the BTC, but retardation also causes BTC spreading and a delay in traxer arrival.

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Field, M. Efficient Hydrologic Tracer-Test Design for Tracer-Mass Estimation and Sample Collection Frequency, 1 Method Development. ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY 42(7):827-838, (2002).

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