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    Description

    Available models of solute transport in heterogeneous formations lack in providing complete characterization of the predicted concentration. This is a serious drawback especially in risk analysis where confidence intervals and probability of exceeding threshold values are required. Our contribution to fill this gap of knowledge is a probability distribution model for the local concentration of conservative tracers migrating in heterogeneous aquifers. Our model accounts for dilution, mechanical mixing within the sampling volume and spreading due to formation heterogeneity. It is developed by modeling local concentration dynamics with an Ito Stochastic Differential Equation (SDE) that under the hypothesis of statistical stationarity leads to the Beta probability distribution function (pdf) for the solute concentration. This model shows large flexibility in capturing the smoothing effect of the sampling volume and the associated reduction of the probability of exceeding large concentrations. Furthermore, it is fully characterized by the first two moments of the solute concentration, and these are the same pieces of information required for standard geostatistical techniques employing Normal or Log-Normal distributions. Additionally, we show that in the absence of pore-scale dispersion and for point concentrations the pdf model converges to the binary distribution of [Dagan, G., 1982. Stochastic modeling of groundwater flow by unconditional and conditional probabilities, 2, The solute transport. Water Resour. Res. 18 (4), 835-848.], while it approaches the Normal distribution for sampling volumes much larger than the characteristic scale of the aquifer heterogeneity. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the same model with the spatial moments replacing the statistical moments can be applied to estimate the proportion of the plume volume where solute concentrations are above or below critical thresholds. Application of this model to point and vertically averaged bromide concentrations from the first Cape Cod tracer test and to a set of numerical simulations confirms the above findings and for the first time it shows the superiority of the Betamodel to both Normal and Log-Normal models in interpreting field data. Furthermore, we show that assuming a-priori that local concentrations are normally or log-normally distributed may result in a severe underestimate of the probability of exceeding large concentrations.

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    Citation

    Bellin, Alberto; Tonina, Daniele. 2007. Probability density function of non-reactive solute concentration in heterogeneous porous formations. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology. 94: 109-125.

    Keywords

    concentration pdf, heterogeneous geological formations, Ito's Stochastic Differential Equation, beta distribution

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