Surface area and travel time relationships in aquifer treatment systems

Peter Fox, Roshan Makam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Soil aquifer treatment (SAT) and bank filtration use natural attenuation processes to purify water for subsequent use. Soil aquifer treatment may constitute both unsaturated and saturated flow conditions, while bank filtration systems are primarily saturated flow. This analysis focuses on the saturated zone, where the majority of residence time occurs, in both SAT and bank filtration systems. Sustainable removal mechanisms during subsurface flow are primarily surface-mediated and therefore depend on surface area. By analyzing saturated subsurface flow hydraulics in granular media, a relationship between surface area and travel time was developed. For saturated subsurface flow, the ratio of surface area-to-travel time varied by approximately a factor of 3, for common aquifer materials subject to identical hydraulic gradients. Because travel time criteria often are used to regulate SAT and bank filtration systems, these criteria also may determine the surface area and associated surface-mediated reactions for water purification. The ratio of surface area-to-travel time increases with increasing hydraulic gradient, implying that surface area is relatively constant for specific travel times, even if the hydraulic gradient changes; however, the increasing hydraulic gradient will increase the distance from the recharge zone to the recovery well. Therefore, travel time assessments based on maximum possible hydraulic gradients increase surface area and could provide a conservative limit for surface-mediated reactions. This analysis demonstrates that travel time criteria for SAT and bank filtration systems indirectly provide a minimum surface area that may support sustainable removal mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2337-2343
Number of pages7
JournalWater Environment Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Aquifer materials
  • Bank filtration
  • Organics
  • Soil aquifer treatment
  • Surface area
  • Travel time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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