Numerical study of wave effects on groundwater flow and solute transport in a laboratory beach

Xiaolong Geng, Michel C. Boufadel, Yuqiang Xia, Hailong Li, Lin Zhao, Nancy L. Jackson, Richard S. Miller

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47 Scopus citations


A numerical study was undertaken to investigate the effects of waves on groundwater flow and associated inland-released solute transport based on tracer experiments in a laboratory beach. The MARUN model was used to simulate the density-dependent groundwater flow and subsurface solute transport in the saturated and unsaturated regions of the beach subjected to waves. The Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, Fluent, was used to simulate waves, which were the seaward boundary condition for MARUN. A no-wave case was also simulated for comparison. Simulation results matched the observed water table and concentration at numerous locations. The results revealed that waves generated seawater-groundwater circulations in the swash and surf zones of the beach, which induced a large seawater-groundwater exchange across the beach face. In comparison to the no-wave case, waves significantly increased the residence time and spreading of inland-applied solutes in the beach. Waves also altered solute pathways and shifted the solute discharge zone further seaward. Residence Time Maps (RTM) revealed that the wave-induced residence time of the inland-applied solutes was largest near the solute exit zone to the sea. Sensitivity analyses suggested that the change in the permeability in the beach altered solute transport properties in a nonlinear way. Due to the slow movement of solutes in the unsaturated zone, the mass of the solute in the unsaturated zone, which reached up to 10% of the total mass in some cases, constituted a continuous slow release of solutes to the saturated zone of the beach. This means of control was not addressed in prior studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-52
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
StatePublished - Sep 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


  • Groundwater flow
  • Laboratory beach
  • MARUN numerical model
  • Tracer
  • Waves


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