Identification of Recharge Source Areas in a Fractured Crystalline-rock Aquifer in Ploemeur, France

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Virginia Tech

Characterizing and preserving available groundwater resources within crystalline rocks is pertinent to understanding and predicting resources for ecosystems worldwide. Crystalline-rock aquifers, with favorable structure and climate, can be pumped year-round to meet local domestic demand. The Ploemeur hydrogeologic site, near the southern coast of Brittany, France, is characterized by a structurally complex fractured mica-schist and granite confined aquifer system. A contact zone, which acts as the main localized flow path through the aquifer, separates the two crystalline units, and a sub-vertical permeable fault zone cross-cuts the crystalline bedrock and contact zone. Using field observations, recharge estimates, and a calibrated three-dimensional numerical multi-zone MODFLOW 6 model, we present preferential flow paths of recharge infiltrating the complex geology of the Ploemeur hydrogeological site during pumping conditions. Using MODPATH to track groundwater and recharge path lines, we determine that water extracted from the aquifer originates from higher elevation areas west of the pumping site. Particle tracking analyses indicate that precipitation simulated over the pumping zone takes a minimum of two years to reach the pumping wells and travels up to 100 m in distance. Analyses of the water budget of the aquifer system using Zonebudget show that storage contributes significantly to the productivity of the system. Based on these analyses, we determine that recharge mechanisms such as piston flow and preferential flow play important roles in the Ploemeur hydrogeologic site. Though the Ploemeur site is unique in its composition and geometry, the methods used to characterize and monitor the aquifer can be applied to fractured crystalline-rock aquifers globally. Fractured crystalline-rock aquifers make up 10% of the region's freshwater sources, thus understanding their flow mechanisms contributes greatly to the management of freshwater resources.

groundwater, recharge, fractured crystalline-rock aquifer, numerical model