Effects of River Partial Penetration on the Occurrence of Riparian Freshwater Lenses: Experimental Investigation

Amir Jazayeri, Adrian D. Werner, Huiqiang Wu, Chunhui Lu

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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This study examines the occurrence of riparian lenses adjacent to partially penetrating, gaining rivers under the controlled conditions of a laboratory sand tank. Laboratory experiments and numerical modeling of the freshwater lens extent are used to provide physical verification (in light of limited examples of well-characterized field cases) of the analytical methodology, thereby evaluating the underlying assumptions. Parameter calibration and uncertainty analysis are applied to assess both the experimental conditions and the benefit of lens observations in applying the analytical approach. The experimental freshwater lens was reproduced by both analytical and numerical models, with the exception of small mismatches (between analytical results and measured data) in the lens thickness in the near-river region. These are most likely due to vertical flow effects that arise from the partial river penetration and saltwater inflows to the river bottom, and that are only partly accounted for in the analytical approach. Uncertainty analysis highlighted that accurate lens predictions based on the analytical method requires calibration to direct lens measurements; a similar finding from earlier studies of fully penetrating river conditions. Sensitivity analysis highlighted that the saltwater head boundary, freshwater and saltwater densities, and the aquifer depth below the riverbed (in descending order of sensitivity) are the most important factors in controlling freshwater lens occurrence and saltwater discharge. The results provide the first physical verification of the occurrence of stable riparian lenses adjacent to partially penetrating, gaining rivers, and verify a recent analytical solution for lens extent and saltwater discharge.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021WR029728
Number of pages22
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • riparian lenses
  • freshwater lens
  • saltwater densities
  • freshwater densities
  • aquifers


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