Aquifer heterogeneity controls to quality monitoring network performance for the protection of groundwater production wells
A groundwater monitoring network surrounding a pumping well (such as a public water supply) allows for early contaminant detection and mitigation where possible contaminant source locations are often unknown. This numerical study investigates how the contaminant detection probability of a hypothetical sentinel-well monitoring network consisting of one to four monitoring wells is affected by aquifer spatial heterogeneity and dispersion characteristics, where the contaminant source location is randomized. This is achieved through a stochastic framework using a Monte Carlo approach. A single production well is considered that results in converging non-uniform flow close to the well. Optimal network arrangements are obtained by maximizing a weighted risk function that considers true and false positive detection rates, sampling frequency, early detection, and contaminant travel time uncertainty. Aquifer dispersivity is found to be the dominant parameter for the quantification of network performance. For the range of parameters considered, a single monitoring well screening the full aquifer thickness is expected to correctly and timely identify at least 12% of all incidents resulting in contaminants reaching the production well. This proportion increases to a global maximum of 96% for a network consisting of four wells and very dispersive transport conditions. Irrespective of network size and sampling frequency, more dispersive transport conditions result in higher detection rates. Increasing aquifer heterogeneity and decreasing aquifer spatial continuity also lead to higher detection rates, though these effects are diminished for networks of 3 or more wells. Statistical anisotropy has no effect on the network performance. Earlier detection, which is critical for remedial action and supply safety, comes with a significant cost in terms of detection rate, and should be carefully considered when a monitoring network is being designed.