Near surface electrical characterization of hydraulic conductivity: From petrophysical properties to aquifer geometries - A review

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This paper reviews the recent geophysical literature addressing the estimation of saturated hydraulic conductivity (K) from static low frequency electrical measurements (electrical resistivity, induced polarization (IP) and spectral induced polarization (SIP)). In the first part of this paper, research describing how petrophysical relations between electrical properties and effective (i.e. controlling fluid transport) properties of (a) the interconnected pore volumes and interconnected pore surfaces, have been exploited to estimate K at both the core and field scale is reviewed. We start with electrical resistivity measurements, which are shown to be inherently limited in K estimation as, although resistivity is sensitive to both pore volume and pore surface area properties, the two contributions cannot be separated. Efforts to utilize the unique sensitivity of IP and SIP measurements to physical parameters that describe the interconnected pore surface area are subsequently introduced and the incorporation of such data into electrical based Kozeny-Carman type models of K estimation is reviewed. In the second part of this review, efforts to invert geophysical datasets for spatial patterns of K variability (e.g. aquifer geometries) at the field-scale are considered. Inversions, based on the conversion of an image of a geophysical property to a hydrological property assuming a valid petrophysical relationship, as well as joint/ constrained inversion methods, whereby multiple geophysical and hydrological data are inverted simultaneously, are briefly covered. This review demonstrates that there currently exists an opportunity to link, (1) the petrophysics relating low frequency electrical measurements to effective hydraulic properties, with (2) the joint inversion strategies developed in recent years, in order to obtain more meaningful estimates of spatial patterns of K variability than previously reported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-197
Number of pages29
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - May 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Electrical resistivity
  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Hydrogeophysics
  • Induced polarization
  • Joint inversion


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