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The goal of this exercise is to have students gain an understanding of how fractures affect groundwater flow patterns. In order for them to complete the activity, they need some background on characteristic fracture patterns in different rock types. This background could be provided in a variety of ways depending on geographic location and outcrop availability. If outcrops of crystalline and sedimentary sequences are available, you could take students in the field and have them observe (and perhaps sketch) the differing fracture patterns. If geology (and or weather) preclude this option, the students could observe fracture patterns from slides of outcrops (see slides in accompanying PowerPoint Presentation). The classroom portion of the exercise uses a simple 2D numerical model (TopoDrive, available from USGS) to simulate flow in three aquifers: 1) homogeneous isotropic, 2) fractured crystalline, and 3) fractured sedimentary sequences. The task is to observe how the fracture patterns alter the flow patterns as compared to the homogeneous, isotropic simulation. The activity gives students practice in integrating geologic data into numerical models, describing flow patterns, and using computer technology. The activity also integrates knowledge from structural geology with hydrogeology.
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