The Henry problem has played a key role in our understanding of seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers and in benchmarking density dependent flow codes. This paper seeks to modify Henry’s problem to ensure sensitivity to density variations and vertical salinity profiles that resemble field observations. In the proposed problem, the “dispersive Henry problem”, mixing is represented by means of the traditional Scheidegger dispersion tensor (dispersivity times water flux). Anisotropy in the hydraulic conductivity is acknowledged and Henry’s seaside boundary condition of prescribed salt concentration is replaced by a flux dependent boundary condition, which represents more realistically salt transport across the seaside boundary. This problem turns out to be very sensitive to density variations and its solution gets closer to reality. However, an improvement in the traditional Henry problem (gain in sensitivity and realism) can be also achieved if the value of the Peclet number is significantly reduced.
Although the dispersive problem lacks an analytical solution, it can shed light on flow in coastal aquifers. It provides significant information about the factors controlling seawater penetration, width of the mixing zone and influx of seawater. The width of the mixing zone depends basically on dispersion with longitudinal and transverse dispersion controlling different parts of the mixing zone but displaying similar overall effects. Toe penetration is mainly controlled by the horizontal permeability and by the geometric mean of the dispersivities. Finally, transverse dispersivity and the geometric mean of the hydraulic conductivity are the leading parameters controlling the amount of saltwater that enters the aquifer
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