A usual method to obtain aquifer parameters is to analyze the moments of the breakthrough curves (BTCs) in tracer tests. The parameters to be estimated in this analysis would depend on the conceptual model adopted. Intuitively, if different processes were considered, the shape of the BTCs should be quite different, and one would tend to think that the time and space evolution of the temporal moments should also be quite different. Contrarily, in this paper, we show that two very different conceptual models of solute transport lead to virtually identical moments of the BTC. The two models selected for this study are the classical advection–dispersion equation with a Fickian macrodispersive term and a homogeneous medium advection model with mass-transfer between mobile and immobile matrix phases, for three different models of matrix shape. In both models, the first three moments are linear with travel distance, while the fourth moment is a second order polynomial. This agreement allows us to choose parameters yielding the same moments in the two models. As we consider two fitting parameters, we select them to match the second and third moment. Match in the first moment is obtained from physical arguments. It turns out that the resulting leading term of the fourth moment is identical for both models. As a direct consequence of this work, it follows that for large travel distances it would not be possible to discriminate between conceptual models using data from a single BTC.

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Published on 01/01/2004

DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2003.12.046
Licence: CC BY-NC-SA license

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