A Numerical and Statistical Analysis of the Fractured Rock Aquifer System in Ploemeur, France to Quantify Local and Regional Recharge


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Virginia Tech


Groundwater recharge is an essential metric for understanding and protecting groundwater resources. Quantifying this parameter remains extremely challenging due to the uncertainties associated with the extent to which the vadose zone affects groundwater movement and the highly heterogeneous nature of the aquifer systems being monitored.

The difficulty surrounding recharge quantification is compounded when considering a fractured rock aquifer system, where classification and modeling is complicated by highly complex structural geology. However, the ability to distinguish the character and geometry of fractured rock aquifers is indispensable for quantifying recharge to evaluate sustainable yields, as well as for implementing protective measures to manage these systems.

The primary intention of this study is to assess the hydrogeologic properties that have led the unique recharge signals within the fractured crystalline-rock aquifer system near Ploemeur, France. Infiltration and groundwater movement are characterized via time-series hydraulic head and precipitation data collected at daily, monthly, yearly, and at decadal intervals. In spite of the nearly one million cubic meters of groundwater extraction, measured drawdowns are marginal, suggesting that local and regional recharge plays a significant role in moderating water-level declines and raising questions as to the origins of the substantial inflow required to sustain this complex system. A roughly two-month lag has been observed between seasonal water level and monthly precipitation at Ploemeur, which has previously been attributed solely to slow vertical migration of water through the low-permeability micaschist layer to the fractured contact zone and interconnected fault. However, results from this study suggest that a significant portion of the observed lag can be attributed to vadose-zone processes, particularly the thickness of the vadose zone. This investigation also reveals a recharge signal that continues throughout the calendar year, departing from the traditional simplified concept that recharge quantity is essentially equivalent to the value of evapotranspiration subtracted from infiltration.



hydrogeology, Ploemeur, vadose zone, fractured rock aquifer, recharge