Poroelastic Loading of an Aquifer Due to Upstream Dam Releases

TitlePoroelastic Loading of an Aquifer Due to Upstream Dam Releases
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBoutt, David F.
JournalGround Water
Pagination580 - 592
Date Published07/2010
Keywordsclimate science center, New England Climate

Short-term changes in the hydraulic head of surface water bodies are known to influence the shallow response of hydraulically connected groundwaters. Associated with these fluctuations is the physical increase in stream water creating a mechanical load on the ground surface. This load is supported by the geologic materials (sediment or rock) and the pore fluid contained within the pores. Changes in this surface load have a direct effect on the total stress of the aquifer causing either a change in effective stress or fluid pressure. This response, predicted by the framework of linear poroelasticity, is a well-understood phenomenon in geologic materials. Currently, field measurements of the hydraulic response (i.e., fluid pressure) of aquifer materials are undergoing poroelastic loading due to dam releases in the Deerfield River Watershed in Massachusetts. An increase in stream stage from upstream dam releases causes an instantaneous pore fluid pressure increase at multiple depths and locations in the aquifer. This increase lasts anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes depending on the magnitude of the rise in the stream stage. Pore-pressure changes are well correlated to stream stage fluctuations for all of the recorded events. Poroelastic models created using basin stratigraphy and hydraulic properties of the aquifer response match the field observations well. Model results suggest that the overall stratigraphy is important in controlling the magnitude and duration of the poroelastic response. An improved understanding of responses such as these can be used to constrain uncertainties in model calibration and simulations of the contaminant migration in low permeability fine-grained (compressive) materials.