Numerical modeling of the productivity of vertical to shallowly dipping fractured zones in crystalline rocks

S Leray, J.-R. de Dreuzy, O Bour, Etienne Bresciani

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    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Groundwater resources in crystalline rock are typically associated with the weathered zone and regional sub-vertical faults that are well connected to the surface. However, some sub-horizontal and shallowly dipping fractured zones can also be highly-productive aquifers. In this paper, numerical simulations of a conceptual hydrogeological model show that the flow to such strongly transmissive fractured zones is controlled by their transmissivity or by their deepening structure. While leakage through the overlying rock units is generally the limiting factor, recharge always occurs at least close to the outcrop of the fractured zone where the overlying rock is thinner and guarantees the availability of some groundwater. At small dip angles, recharge extends spatially and the flow within the fractured zone may even become the limiting factor when the hydraulic conductivity of the overlying rock is not less than two orders of magnitude smaller than the fractured zone transmissivity. This is precisely the case of the Plœmeur aquifer (Brittany, France) located in a crystalline rock geologic setting, where groundwater in a shallowly dipping fractured zone is used as the source of water supply for a nearby city of 20,000 people. Simulation results show that the fractured zones may represent potential aquifers under a large variety of hydrogeological conditions. Aquifers in shallowly dipping structures differ strongly from those located in regional sub-vertical fault zones in terms of flow patterns, and thus supposedly in terms of management of the groundwater resource. They are more local than regional in scale, and consequently do not require regional fracture connectivity. The leakage through the overlying rock unit enhances water quality. Finally, we argue that the potential widespread occurrence of these alternative and possibly less accessible resources should promote the development of appropriate identification methods.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)64-75
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2013


    • Groundwater resources
    • Hard-rock aquifers
    • Well yield


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