Controls on the basin-scale distribution of hydraulic conductivity of superficial deposits are assessed in the context of hydrological setting and basin evolution and are investigated using a case study from the Thames Basin, UK. A conceptual model of superficial deposits across the Thames Basin is used to define six lithostratigraphic classes of superficial deposits: pre-Anglian Clay-with-Flint deposits; pre-Anglian River Terrace Deposits associated with the ancestral River Thames and its tributaries; Tills formed during the Anglian glaciations; glacio-fluvial sand and gravel deposits formed during the Anglian; post-Anglian River Terrace Deposits associated with the modern-day River Thames and tributaries; post-Anglian alluvium associated with the modern-day River Thames and tributaries. Hydraulic conductivity of the superficial deposits has been estimated from grain-size distribution data, originally collected for mineral resource assessments, using the Kozeny–Carman method. Based on 6411 samples from 1416 boreholes, estimated hydraulic conductivity ranges from 0.2 to 5942 m day–1, median and mean hydraulic conductivities are 1.67 and 26.72 m day–1 respectively, and the overall distribution of hydraulic conductivity values has a strong positive skew An apparent reduction in mean hydraulic conductivity with increasing age of the deposit is observed, particularly for the River Terrace Deposits. A reduction in maximum hydraulic conductivity at depths >10 m is also observed and the relationship between hydraulic conductivity and depth is controlled by the type of superficial deposit. At the catchment to basin scale, variation in hydraulic conductivity with depth may be explained with reference to both the deposit types and the age of the deposits. Where hydraulic conductivity is found to be intimately linked to the Quaternary evolution of the basin, through contrasts in age and deposit type, permeability variations at the basin scale may be constrained by applying a suitably refined conceptual model of the superficial deposits.

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