We analyze the motion of a sharp interface between fresh and salt groundwater in horizontal, confined aquifers of infinite extend. The analysis is based on earlier results of De Josselin de Jong (Proc Euromech 143:75–82, 1981). Parameterizing the height of the interface along the horizontal base of the aquifer and assuming the validity of the Dupuit–Forchheimer approximation in both the fresh and saltwater, he derived an approximate interface motion equation. This equation is a nonlinear doubly degenerate diffusion equation in terms of the height of the interface. In that paper, he also developed a stream function-based formulation for the dynamics of a two-fluid interface. By replacing the two fluids by one hypothetical fluid, with a distribution of vortices along the interface, the exact discharge field throughout the flow domain can be determined. Starting point for our analysis is the stream function formulation. We derive an exact integro-differential equation for the movement of the interface. We show that the pointwise differential terms are identical to the approximate Dupuit–Forchheimer interface motion equation as derived by De Josselin de Jong. We analyze (mathematical) properties of the additional integral term in the exact interface motion formulation to validate the approximate Dupuit–Forchheimer interface motion equation. We also consider the case of flat interfaces, and we study the behavior of the toe of the interface. In particular, we give a criterion for finite or infinite speed of propagation.
- Dupuit–Forchheimer approximation
- Fresh–salt groundwater flow
- Integro-differential equation
- Interface model
- Porous media