Freshwater lenses within riparian zones of some arid and semiarid settings assist in maintaining the health of riparian ecosystems. We propose an approach for expanding freshwater lenses in saline aquifers adjacent to gaining rivers through the addition of a vertical barrier of low-hydraulic-conductivity (low-K) parallel to the river bank. Sharp-interface analytical solutions for the lens shape and water table distribution are developed to examine the effectiveness of the proposed method and are verified using sand tank experiments and numerical simulations. The sensitivity analysis is used to apply the method to parameters typical of the Lower River Murray (South Australia) and its floodplain aquifers. The results show that the barrier can create significant freshwater lenses in head-controlled systems, whereas the barrier may lead to lens shrinkage in flux-controlled systems due to saline water table rise. That is, the effectiveness of the barrier is highly dependent on the inland boundary condition. The analytical solution presented herein can be used to efficiently predict the riparian freshwater lens extent in response to engineered barriers, adding to existing techniques for studying and modifying riparian freshwater lenses.
|Journal||Water Resources Research|
|Publication status||Published - 20 Jan 2020|
- analytical solution
- low-K barrier
- riparian lens
- sand tank experiment