The usefulness of outcrop analogue air permeameter measurements for analyzing aquifer heterogeneity: quantifying outcrop hydraulic conductivity and its spatial variability

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This paper investigates the use of air permeameter measurements on outcrops of unconsolidated sediments to quantify hydraulic conductivity (K) and its spatial heterogeneity on a broad range of sediment types. The Neogene aquifer in northern Belgium is used as a case study for this purpose. To characterize the variability in K, 511 small-scale air permeability measurements were performed on outcrop sediments representative over five of the aquifer’s lithostratigraphic units. From these measurements, outcrop-scale equivalent K tensors were calculated using numerical upscaling techniques. Validation of the air permeameter-based K values by comparison with laboratory constant head K measurements reveals a correlation of 0.93. Overall, the results indicate that hand-held air permeameters are very efficient and accurate tools to characterize saturated K, as well as its small-scale variability and anisotropy on a broad range of unconsolidated sediments. The studied outcrops further provided a qualitative understanding of aquifer hydrostratigraphy and quantitative estimates about K variability at the centimetre-scale to metre-scale.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5176-5188
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • hydraulic conductivity, spatial variability, upscaling, anisotropy, sedimentary structures, air permeameter

ID: 220720