Dealing with spatial heterogeneity
Heterogeneity can be dealt with by defining homogeneous equivalent properties, known as averaging, or by trying to describe the spatial variability of the rock properties from geologic observations and local measurements. The techniques available for these descriptions are mostly continuous Geostatistical models, or discontinuous facies models such as the Boolean, Indicator or Gaussian-Threshold models and the Markov chain model. These facies models are better suited to treating issues of rock strata connectivity, e.g. buried high permeability channels or low permeability barriers, which greatly affect flow and, above all, transport in aquifers. Genetic models provide new ways to incorporate more geology into the facies description, an approach that has been well developed in the oil industry, but not enough in hydrogeology. The conclusion is that future work should be focused on improving the facies models, comparing them, and designing new in situ testing procedures (including geophysics) that would help identify the facies geometry and properties. A world-wide catalog of aquifer facies geometry and properties, which could combine site genesis and description with methods used to assess the system, would be of great value for practical applications.