Friday, August 14, 2020

Using Drain/Fracture Line Boundaries in AnAqSim – Part 1 of 3: Collector Trench Example

Drain/Fracture elements in AnAqSim are useful internal line boundaries that conduct water at a high rate compared to the surrounding domain.  They can be used to easily model a variety of linear hydrologic features including:

  • Trench drains that collect water in a high permeability trench and direct flow towards an extraction well
  • Ponds in direct communication with the aquifer where modeling pond responses to model stresses is desired
  • Discrete fractures or fractured zones

This example will demonstrate the use of drain/fracture line elements to represent a collector trench for groundwater dewatering or remediation, and parts 2 and 3 will focus on modeling ponds and fractures using drain/fracture line elements.

AnAqSim employs these drain/fracture elements as line boundaries with specified conductance (hydraulic conductivity * width) that can transmit large volumes of water. Note that drain/fracture elements in AnAqSim are different than drain boundaries employed in MODFLOW. Drain/fracture elements do not remove water from the model and the user does not supply a reference elevation. If you are trying to simulate a MODFLOW type drain boundary in AnAqSim, it is best to use the River element with the “Dries_up” box ticked. Note also that, while the drain/fracture feature is referred to as a boundary in AnAqSim, it is created using a line dipole function and should not be used to form an external domain boundary, nor should it contact or be joined to an external domain boundary - it is strictly an internal boundary.

Drain/fracture elements can be employed in any instance where hydraulic features can be conceptualized as a thin linear zone with a greater hydraulic conductivity than the surrounding aquifer. While that zone may have a physical width in the real aquifer, as for example in the case of a trench, the mathematical line boundary has zero width. This prevents any pathline tracing along these features as they transmit flow along their orientation. This limitation, along with other tips for implementation, will be discussed in the following example.

Trench Drains

Trench drains with extraction sumps or wells are useful remedial technologies to consider when evaluating remedial options at sites with impacted groundwater, or for certain dewatering applications. AnAqSim allows for rapid simulation of trench drains and extraction wells using either trench drain domains separated from the aquifer by interdomain boundaries or drain/fracture elements with an equivalent conductance (Kx * w) within the aquifer.

Previously, we have represented trench drains as separate domains in flexAEM exercises and calculators (available from the flexAEM website); this is an effective strategy that allows for particle tracing within the drain, but it can be time consuming to input the nodes along the edge of the drain (especially for complex drain geometries that do not align with the x and y axes). Drain/Fracture elements have are easier to input because only a single line is required (although care should be taken near the ends of trench drains to add additional nodes where the boundary condition changes rapidly). Additionally, a node is required at locations that correspond to wells pumping within the trench drain, otherwise the pumping will not be properly conveyed to the trench drain.

The examples below show a trench drain represented with a separate domain (Fig 1) and a trench drain represented using the drain/fracture element (Fig 2). Both examples have three pumping wells located within the trench drain pumping at 4,000 ft3/d or approximately 30,000 gpd. The trench drain is 4 feet wide with a hydraulic conductivity of 1,000 ft/d; this corresponds to a conductance of 4,000 ft2/d for the drain/fracture element.

Fig 1. Trench Drain Represented by a High Hydraulic Conductivity Domain

Fig 2. Trench Drain Represented by a Drain/Fracture Element

Notice that the two trench drain representations yield identical head contours (compare Figs 3 and 4), but the separate trench drain domain model produces a much more complete representation of the particle pathlines (Fig 3)  that represent the capture zones of the three wells. Although the drain/fracture element model does not allow particles to travel along the length of the drain (Fig 4), the particles that are shown represent the overall extent of the trench drain and extraction well capture zone.

Fig 3. Trench Drain Represented by a Separate High Hydraulic Conductivity Domain

Fig 4. Trench Drain Represented by a Drain/Fracture Element


Drain/fracture elements are useful features in AnAqSim that can be utilized to rapidly model trench drains used for capturing impacted water or dewatering. Modeling the dewatering effect of a trench drain and sump, without the need for particle pathline tracing is an efficient use of drain/fracture elements since it allows the user to save time when digitizing the trench drain.

Tips and Tricks

  • In the above example, near the ends of the trench drain and near the three wells, the spacing of drain/fracture element nodes was decreased to less than 1-foot to provide greater resolution where the boundary condition changes rapidly. If you are experiencing jagged contours near the drain, try decreasing the node spacing to see if this helps to smooth the contours.
  • If you have used drain/fracture elements in your model and you would like to perform particle pathline tracing, try adding a line of pathlines that trace backwards from immediately upstream of the drain/fracture element and another line of pathlines that trace forward immediately downstream of the drain/fracture element. This will give you a fairly good understanding of the flow directions on either side of the drain/fracture element, but will not indicate how far particles travel along the drain/fracture element before reentering the aquifer.

The models used to in the above examples are available in this zipped file. Both model files are solvable using either AnAqSimEDU (the free version) or the full version of AnAqSim. Both versions are available from the Fitts Geosolutions.