Numerical and experimental study of seepage in unconfined aquifers with a periodic boundary condition

B. Ataie-Ashtiani, R. E. Volker, D. A. Lockington

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55 Citations (Scopus)


The assessment of groundwater conditions within an unconfined aquifer with a periodic boundary condition is of interest in many hydrological and environmental problems. A two-dimensional numerical model for density dependent variably saturated groundwater flow, SUTRA (Voss, C.I., 1984. SUTRA: a finite element simulation model for saturated-unsaturated, fluid-density dependent ground-water flow with energy transport or chemically reactive single species solute transport. US Geological Survey, National Center, Reston, VA) is modified in order to be able to simulate the groundwater flow in unconfined aquifers affected by a periodic boundary condition. The basic flow equation is changed from pressure-form to mixed-form. The model is also adjusted to handle a seepage-face boundary condition. Experiments are conducted to provide data for the groundwater response to the periodic boundary condition for aquifers with both vertical and sloping faces. The performance of the numerical model is assessed using those data. The results of pressure- and mixed-form approximations are compared and the improvement achieved through the mixed-form of the equation is demonstrated. The ability of the numerical model to simulate the water table and seepage-face is tested by modelling some published experimental data. Finally the numerical model is successfully verified against present experimental results to confirm its ability to simulate complex boundary conditions like the periodic head and the seepage-face boundary condition on the sloping face.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-184
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Finite element model
  • Flow tank
  • Groundwater flow
  • Periodic boundary condition
  • Unconfined aquifer
  • Variably saturated flow


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