Abstract

The hydrogeological properties and hydrological responses of a productive aquifer in northeastern Switzerland are investigated. For this purpose, 3D crosshole electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) is used to define the main lithological structures within the aquifer (through static inversion) and to monitor the water infiltration from an adjacent river. During precipitation events and subsequent river flooding, the river water resistivity increases. As a consequence, the electrical characteristics of the infiltrating water can be used as a natural tracer to delineate preferential flow paths and flow velocities. The focus is primarily on the experiment installation, data collection strategy, and the structural characterization of the site and a brief overview of the ERT monitoring results. The monitoring system comprises 18 boreholes each equipped with 10 electrodes straddling the entire thickness of the gravel aquifer. A multichannel resistivity system programmed to cycle through various four-point electrode configurations of the 180 electrodes in a rolling sequence allows for the measurement of approximately 15,500 apparent resistivity values every 7 h on a continuous basis. The 3D static ERT inversion of data acquired under stable hydrological conditions provides a base model for future time-lapse inversion studies and the means to investigate the resolving capability of our acquisition scheme. In particular, it enables definition of the main lithological structures within the aquifer. The final ERT static model delineates a relatively high-resistivity, low-porosity, intermediate-depth layer throughout the investigated aquifer volume that is consistent with results from well logging and seismic and radar tomography models. The next step will be to define and implement an appropriate time-lapse ERT inversion scheme using the river water as a natural tracer. The main challenge will be to separate the superposed time-varying effects of water table height, temperature, and salinity variations associated with the infiltrating water.

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