Theoretical Analysis of Groundwater Flow Patterns Near Stagnation Points

Etienne Bresciani, Peter K. Kang, Seunghak Lee

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14 Scopus citations


The importance of stagnation points for characterizing groundwater flow patterns has long been recognized. However, the possible streamline configurations near stagnation points under the constraints of Darcy's law have not been thoroughly investigated. We fill this gap by conducting a systematic analysis of groundwater flow patterns near stagnation points in two and three dimensions. The approach borrows ideas from dynamical systems theory, as often done in fluid mechanics. The most general form of Darcy's law, which applies to variable-density, compressible fluids flowing through heterogeneous, anisotropic, compressible porous media, is first considered. Under these conditions, there are no major restrictions on the possible flow patterns near stagnation points. The common types of stagnation points are thus minimums (spiral or nonspiral), maximums (spiral or nonspiral), and saddles (in three dimensions, these can be converging or diverging and spiral or nonspiral). The implications of dealing with more restrictive fluid and porous medium properties are then systematically investigated. In particular, important restrictions on the possible types of stagnation points exist when the flow is constant density or divergence free. The theoretical analysis is complemented by a series of examples of groundwater flow fields in which different types of stagnation point arise. The findings highlight key differences between two-dimensional and three-dimensional flows and provide new insights on the patterns of variable-density groundwater flow. The fundamental knowledge on groundwater flow patterns gained from this study will benefit both theoretical and applied studies of groundwater flow and solute transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWater Resources Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

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  • Darcy flow
  • dividing stream surface
  • dividing streamline
  • flow topology
  • groundwater flow patterns
  • stagnation point


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