A Review of Some Tracer-Test Design Equations for Tracer-Mass Estimation and Sample Collection Frequency

Determination of necessary tracer mass, initial sample-collection time, and subsequent sample-collection frequency are the three most difficult aspects to estimate for a proposed tracer test prior to conducting the tracer test. To facilitate tracer-mass estimation, 33 mass-estimation equations are reviewed here, 32 of which were evaluated using previously published tracer-test design examination parameters. Comparison of the results produced a wide range of estimated tracer mass, but no means is available by which one equation may be reasonably selected over the others. Each equation produces a simple approximation for tracer mass. Most of the equations are based primarily on estimates or measurements of discharge, transport distance, and suspected transport times. Although the basic field parameters commonly employed are appropriate for estimating tracer mass, the 33 equations are problematic in that they were all probably based on the original developers' experience in a particular field area and not necessarily on measured hydraulic parameters or solute-transport theory. Suggested sampling frequencies are typically based primarily on probable transport distance, but with little regard to expected travel times. This too is problematic in that tends to result in false negatives or data aliasing. Simulations from the recently developed efficient hydrologic tracer-test design methodology (EHTD) were compared with those obtained from 32 of the 33 published tracer-mass estimatio equations and suggested sampling frequencies. EHTD applies functional relationships developed from hydrologic measurements in a solute-transport model to develop a preliminary tracer-breakthrough curve that has been shown to reasonably predict actual tracer-test results.

Keywords Sampling frequencies - Tracer-mass estimation - Tracer-test design.


Field, M. S. A Review of Some Tracer-Test Design Equations for Tracer-Mass Estimation and Sample Collection Frequency. ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY 43(8):867-881, (2003).