Investigating the decrease ofgroundwater levels and the effect of fracture zone on recovery time: A case study of decrease in groundwater levels in a tunnel construction site in Vinsta, Stockholm

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Abstract: Groundwater is one of the main natural resources worldwide. Groundwater exists in aquifers below the earth surface and provides quantities of water for various purposes such as supply to households and businesses, public supply, drinking water supply, irrigation and agriculture. Sweden is also highly dependent on groundwater. As mentioned in the list of 16 Environmental Quality Objectives, that the Swedish Parliament established, "groundwater must assure a safe and sustainable supply of drinking water, as well as promoting viable habitats for plants and animals in lakes and watercourses". However, the protection of groundwater and generally the aquifer resources is prone to various human activities that are harmful in terms of volume and quality. The present thesis aims to investigate the behavior of groundwater towards such human activities of large scales, like a tunnel construction, and small scale, like a construction of a geothermal plant. The area under study is investigated through spatial analysis, using ArcGIS; the groundwater levels are monitored and further statistically analyzed by implementing a Modified Double Mass Statistical Analysis; and further on a 3D numerical model is built in COMSOL Multiphysics in order to simulate possible drawdown caused by human intervention to the natural environment. The created 3D model was used in order to evaluate the drawdown and different scenarios were implemented with the aim to determine the degree of sensitivity the model has towards fracture parameters. Since the occurrence of fractures in the rock mass is often connected to extended investigation and time/cost consuming techniques, the model contains an overall uncertainty concerning the location and properties of the fracture formations in the area. The different scenarios involve variation of fracture zone width and thus the behavior of the top soil layer is investigated in terms of recovery after drawdown. The results indicated connection to human activities, with the statistical analysis to support this. Also, the numerical model showed that the fracture properties are connected to the recovery time of the groundwater levels after a drawdown is noticed. Wider fracture zone width implied more time needed for the groundwater levels to get to their initial values, under the perception that the source of recharge is precipitation. On the other hand, narrow fracture zone width was connected with greater drawdown, compared to the wider width scenario, and also earlier in time recovery of the groundwater levels. The type of the soil layer and its vulnerability to human activities can vary greatly in terms of volume loss which can prove a hazard to existing infrastructure on the ground surface. The present study can prove useful in cases of prestudy of drilling projects of any scale. There is strong connection between fracture formations and recovery of groundwater levels and thus such kind of models can generate innovative techniques of planning before a project begins.

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