Validation of Travel-Time based Nonlinear Bioreactive Transport Models under Flow and Transport Dynamics

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Alicia Sanz Prat, Chuanhe Lu and Olaf A Cirpka, University of Tübingen, Center for Applied Geosciences, Tübingen, Germany
Travel-time based models are presented as an alternative to traditional spatially explicit models to solve nonlinear reactive-transport problems. The main advantage of the travel-time approach is that it does not require multi-dimensional characterization of physical and chemical parameters, and transport is one-dimensional. Spatial dimensions are replaced by groundwater travel time, defined as the time required by a water particle to reach an observation point or the outflow boundary, respectively.

The fundamental hypothesis is that locations of the same groundwater age exhibit the same reactive-species concentrations. This is true in strictly advective-reactive transport in steady-state flows if the coefficients of reactions are uniform and the concentration is uniform over the inflow boundary. We hypothesize that the assumption still holds when adding some dispersion in coupled flow and transport dynamics. We compare a two-dimensional, spatially explicit, bioreactive, advective-dispersive transport model, considered as “virtual truth”, with three 1-D travel-time based models which differ by the conceptualization of longitudinal dispersion: (i) neglecting dispersive mixing altogether, (ii) introducing a local-scale longitudinal dispersivity constant in time and space, and (iii) using an effective longitudinal dispersivity that increases linearly with distance.

We consider biodegradation of organic matter catalyzed by non-competitive inhibitive microbial populations. The simulated inflow contains oxygen, nitrate, and DOC. The domain contains growing aerobic and denitrifying bacteria, the latter being inhibited by oxygen. This system is computed in 1-D, and in 2-D heterogeneous domains.

We conclude that the conceptualization of nonlinear bioreactive transport in complex multi-dimensional domains by quasi 1-D travel-time models is valid for steady-state flow if the reactants are introduced over a wide cross-section, flow is at quasi-steady state, and dispersive mixing is adequately parameterization. First results considering diurnal fluctuations of flow rate of the uniform velocity field point out to match of concentrations with respect to average travel-time the estimated “virtual truth”.