US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Hydrology 378 (2009) 230–239


A one-dimensional heat-transport model for conduit flow in karst aquifers is presented as an alternative to two or three-dimensional distributed-parameter models, which are data intensive and require knowledge of conduit locations. This model can be applied for cases where water temperature in a well or spring receives all or part of its water from a phreatic conduit. Heat transport in the conduit is simulated by using a physically-based heat-transport equation that accounts for inflow of diffuse flow from smaller openings and fissures in the surrounding aquifer during periods of low recharge. Additional diffuse flow that is within the zone of influence of the well or spring but has not interacted with the conduit is accounted for with a binary mixing equation to proportion these different water sources. The estimation of this proportion through inverse modeling is useful for the assessment of contaminant vulnerability and well-head or spring protection. The model was applied to 7 months of continuous temperature data for a sinking stream that recharges a conduit and a pumped well open to the Madison aquifer in western South Dakota. The simulated conduit-flow fraction to the well ranged from 2% to 31% of total flow, and simulated conduit velocity ranged from 44 to 353 m/d.