Validity of the Local Equilibrium Assumption for Modeling Sorbing Solute Transport Through Homogeneous Soils

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Sorption processes that occur during reactive solute movement through porous media can be modeled using either an equilibrium or kinetic approach. Because of the resulting conceptual and mathematical simplification, many transport models assume local chemical equilibrium is valid for describing sorption reactions. This paper presents quantitative criteria to assess the validity of the local equilibrium assumption for one‐dimensional, steady flow through homogeneous soils. A method is described whereby formulas for solute breakthrough curve time moments can be determined without knowledge of the nalytical solution to the mass transport model. This method is applied to several commonly used nonequilibrium formulations as well as the standard linear equilibrium model. The formulations considered include both the physical nonequilibrium models where the sorption rate is controlled by diffusive solute transfer between mobile and stagnant fluid zones and the chemical nonequilibrium models where the overall sorption rate is governed by the rate of reaction at the soil‐solution interfaces. Criteria for local equilibrium to be valid are derived by comparing the time moment formulas for the nonequilibrium and equilibrium models. These criteria explicitly show that basic system parameters (e.g., seepage velocity, dispersion coefficient, distribution coefficient, sorption rate, boundary conditions) have a significant influence on the attainment of local equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-820
Number of pages13
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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