Ground Water, 42(2), 234-242, 2004.
Ground Water Whirls
by Kick Hemker, Elmer van den Berg, and Mark Bakker
Numerical experiments with steady-state ground water flow models show that spiraling flow lines occur in layered aquifers that have different anisotropic horizontal hydraulic conductivities in adjacent layers. Bundles of such flow lines turning in the same direction can be referred to as ground water whirls. An anisotropic layered block in a field of uniform horizontal flow results in one or more whirls with their axes in the uniform flow direction. The number of whirls depends on the number of interfaces between layers with different anisotropic properties. For flow to a well in an aquifer consisting of two anisotropic layers, with perpendicular major principal directions, whirls are found to occur in quadrants that are bounded by the principal directions of the hydraulic conductivity. The combined effect of flow to a well and a layered anisotropy implies that a single well in a system with a single anisotropic layer within an otherwise isotropic aquifer causes eight whirls. All adjacent whirls rotate in opposite directions.