Geophysical Monitoring of Active Infiltration Experiments for Recharge Estimation: Gains and Pains
Friday, 19 December 2014: 9:30 AM
Drinking water supply on the island of Langeoog, North Sea, solely depends on groundwater from a freshwater lens. The correct estimation of the recharge rate is critical for a sustainable use of the resource. Extensive hydrogeological and geophysical studies have revealed differences in groundwater recharge by a factor of two and more between the top of the dunes and the dune valleys. The most convincing proof of these differences in recharge is based on isotope analysis (age dating) but boreholes are scarce and a direct proof of recharge is desired. For this purpose active infiltration experiments are performed and geophysically monitored. Former applications of this method in sand and loess soil gave evidence for the applicability of the geophysical observation when combined with tensiometers installed in situ at depth. These results showed firstly that in sandy soil the water reaches the groundwater table quicker than anticipated due to the water repellent characteristic of the dry sand, inhibiting the lateral spreading of the water. The studies also revealed that in loess preferential flow is initiated by ponding and that sprinkling caused very slow movement of water within the unsaturated zone and the water remained near the surface. On the island of Langeoog field experiments underlined the importance of water repellency on the dune surface, indicating that the rain water runs off superficially into the dune valleys where higher recharge is found. The active infiltration zone of the experiment covers an area of some 7m² and includes steeper parts of the dune. The infiltration will vary depending on rainfall intensity and duration, original water content and vegetation cover. What results can we reliably expect from the active experiment and what additional measurements are required to back up the findings? Results are ambiguous with regard to the quantitative assessment but the processes can be visualized by geophysical monitoring in situ.