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Abstract

Tracer tests have been performed on the unsaturated zone of the East Yorkshire chalk aquifer, UK. Rapid tracer travel times through significant thicknesses of unsaturated chalk (15–38 m) indicate that bypass flow must occur through fractures. Transport processes in the unsaturated zone of the chalk aquifer thus have similarities to those in the vadose zone of more typically karstic limestone aquifers. Modelling of tracer breakthrough curves indicates that bypass flow is sufficiently rapid to significantly inhibit diffusional loss of tracer into the porous matrix of the chalk. The presence of rapid karstic bypass flow in the unsaturated zone of the chalk will limit the potential for attenuation of groundwater contaminants in this zone.

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