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An understanding of groundwater flow is a critical factor for most underground construction projects
and engineering applications. Groundwater flow through porous soil and rock occurs within the mate-
rial matrix while groundwater flow in a fractured crystalline rock is typically defined by relatively
high groundwater flow within fractures compared to the aquifer matrix, i.e. the rock itself. While the
overall groundwater flow through the fractured rock mass may be typically low there is the potential
for high groundwater ingress if highly transmissive fractures are intersected, and this can have signifi-
cant financial and programme implications for excavation and tunnelling projects.

The Bukit Timah Granite forms one of the dominant geological formations in Singapore and is the lo-
cation for numerous existing and future underground infrastructure. Groundwater issues are a frequent
problem for excavations in the rock partly due to insufficient hydrogeological assessments and partly
due to the high level of uncertainty and risks associated with the formations hydrogeological proper-

Previous studies on the engineering geology and the hydrogeology of the Bukit Timah Granite
(Pfeiffer, 1975; Zhao, 1998; and Zhou, 2001) indicated that the rock mass was typically massive and
has a low hydraulic conductivity of 10
m/s, with isolated discontinuity zones showing conduc-
tivity values of 10
m/s. The majority of studies mentioned predominantly focused on ground in-

Assessment of Hydraulic Conductivity and Groundwater
Flow Models in the Bukit Timah Granite

Andrew Forsythe
Mott MacDonald, Singapore

Nina Pearse Hawkins
Mott MacDonald, Singapore

ABSTRACT: Geotechnical investigations in the Bukit Timah Granite have frequently misinterpreted
the hydrogeological conditions and fail to identify critical highly permeable zones with high flow rates
often encountered during excavation and tunnelling works. This failure is a combination of inadequate
investigation, and poor understanding of the Bukit Timah Granite and its complex hydrogeological re-
gime. The implications are significant to construction projects and can contribute to potential instability
in the excavation, significant drawdown and settlements.

Studies of the Bukit Timah Granite show that it exhibits a multi-layered weathering profile typical of
igneous bodies in tropical conditions with multiple structural features including fracture and fault zones
frequently present. Groundwater flow in the Bukit Timah Granite is typically via secondary flow i.e.
concentrated along the interconnected discontinuities in the rock; each layer or zone may exhibit its own
hydrogeological parameters and this combination of factors must be considered to accurately model
groundwater flow. Geological and hydrogeological investigation data from throughout Singapore has
been assessed and applied to basic continuum and discontinuum hydrogeological flow models. These
models, as well as numerical modelling techniques, are critiqued for their practical suitability, minimum
input data requirements and ability to quantify groundwater flow. In addition, the various procedures for
undertaking hydrogeological investigations are outlined in light of the flow methods assessed and in-
clude advice pertaining to when and where to focus hydrogeological investigations for different scenar-
ios and objectives.

vestigation works in central and northern areas of Singapore sited for potential rock cavern feasibility
assessments. However, rock conditions underlying transport corridors, frequently located in valleys
and along drainage paths, where potential future underground infrastructure may be sited, typically at
much shallower depths than rock caverns, are often quite different geologically and may exhibit a
greater degree of weathering and fracturing. As such this study generally focuses on hydrogeological
conditions in the upper 70m of the subsurface and ground investigation data used is predominantly
from roadside locations below which future underground infrastructure may be constructed.

The aim of this paper is to summarise how groundwater typically flows in the Bukit Timah Granite,
show typical hydraulic conductivity values for the shallow sections of the formation, illustrate possi-
ble methods to quantify flows, give example methods for future ground investigations, and highlight
the risks and limitations with the methods to investigate and quantify the hydrogeological regime.
2.1 General Background and Geological Setting
The Bukit Timah Granite (BTG) is a large plutonic igneous complex of generally granitic rocks likely
to be associated with island arc magmatism and formed by multiple phases of emplacement and as-
similation. The body contains a variety of lithologies including granite, granodiorite, diorite and gab-
bro, along with dyke intrusions, enclaves and xenoliths typically comprising dolerite, andesite, dacite
and rhyolite, frequently encountered throughout the body. The complex also contains numerous struc-
tural features including faults and fracture zones of various scales.

The BTG is the most dominant geology in Singapore and is encountered throughout much of the is-
land although it is predominantly associated with the central areas of the island where the topographic
relief is greatest. The general geological distribution for Singapore is as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Simplified Solid Geology of Singapore. Figure 2. Simplified weathering profile of
BTG Bukit Timah Granite; JF Jurong Formation; tropically weathered igneous rocks. After Little,
OA Old Alluvium. Superficial Geology not detailed. 1969.

Groundwater levels in the BTG typically range from 0.5m to 10mbgl depending on the setting but are
most commonly anticipated to be around 3-5mbgl. Groundwater levels are likely to fluctuate with pre-
cipitation volumes but as Zhao (1998) notes, rainfall in Singapore is generally fairly uniform through-
out the year and groundwater level seems relatively stable.
2.2 Weathering Profile
The near surface BTG generally exhibits a multi-layered weathering profile typical of igneous bodies
in tropical conditions. The generalised weathering profile is as shown in Figure 2 and the classifica-
tion follows BS5930:1999, shown in Table 1. The weathering profile as described generally extends

to considerable depth with GIII rock head level typically encountered around 20-30mbgl, and has been
encountered to depths of more than 60m (Zhou 2001). The rock head is typically undulating with fre-
quent domes and valleys but generally follows the topography.
Table 1. Bukit Timah Granite Weathering Grades
Grade Classifier Typical Characteristics from
Typical Descriptions from Bukit Timah Granite
GVI Residual
Soil derived by in situ weather-
ing but retaining none of the
original texture or fabric.
Residual soil recovered as very soft to very stiff
slightly gravelly fine to coarse sandy SILT OR
loose to dense slightly silty, slightly gravelly fine
to coarse SAND.
GV Completely
Considerably weakened. Slakes.
Original texture apparent.
Completely weathered to stiff to hard fine to
coarse sandy SILT OR dense to very dense fine to
coarse SAND.
GIV Highly
Large pieces cannot be broken
by hand. Does not readily dis-
aggregate (slake) when dry
sample immersed in water.
Highly weathered, completely discoloured rock to
very dense silty SAND and GRAVEL with intact
rock fragments, OR highly fractured rock with
low SCR and very low RQD generally less than
10%, usually 0%.
GIII Moderately
Considerably weakened, pene-
trative discolouration. Large
pieces cannot be broken by
Moderately weathered, fractured, moderately
strong to extremely strong rock. Noticeable dis-
colouration. Makes a dull or slight ringing sound
when struck by hammer.
GII Slightly
Slight discolouration, slight
Slightly weathered, moderately to slightly frac-
tured, strong to extremely strong rock.
GI Fresh Unchanged from original state. Fresh very strong to extremely strong intact rock
with original fractures.

As is shown, the weathering grades generally decrease with depth although downhole weathering is
common below the rock head level and corestones are frequently encountered above the rock head.
The upper GVI and GV layers can be considered soils, the underlying GIV represents a transition
zone and may comprise highly weathered weakened intact rock, highly fractured rock, or an apparent
mix of GV soils and GIII rocks. In engineering terms the layer is generally considered a soil. Below
the GIV and the upper soils in situ rock of GIII to GI is generally encountered with a variable amount
of fractures present. The weathering profile may not be complete and the transition from residual soil
to strong in situ rock is frequently rapid.

It is further noted that with increased weathering the materials exhibit increased porosity, particularly
with respect to the soils. Cook (2003) classifies porous and fractured rocks as shown in Figure 3.
From this example, it may be reasonable to generally classify the weathering grades of the BTG as
GVI to GV Homogeneous to Heterogenous Porous Media;
GIV Fractured Porous Media;
GIII to GI Purely Fractured Media (although all grades will exhibit some porosity).

Figure 3. Representation of porous and fractured rocks (Cook 2003)
2.3 Fractures and Joints
The near surface BTG, discounting the overlying GVI and GV soil mass, is considered to be a frac-
tured rock mass with a varying degree of fractures, typically reducing in quantity with depth.

Zhao (1998) reported that there are generally three to four joint sets in the BTG with dominant sub
vertical joint sets striking NNW-SSE, NNE-SSW and NW-SE. However, in near surface levels, joints
may be encountered in numerous orientations including horizontal and sub-horizontal geometries,
probably associated with near surface de-stressing. As such the sub-vertical joints may be considered
more mature. Recent investigations utilising down hole optical televiewer methods show a large scat-
ter of data but show a clear dominance of joints striking W-E and NE-SW as is shown in Figure 4.
These results roughly correlate with recent hydraulic fracture investigations, undertaken as part of
ground investigations for future underground infrastructure, which show a principal horizontal stress
direction predominantly oriented SW-NE. Both the televiewer and hydraulic fracture investigations
were undertaken in east central Singapore running roughly between Woodlands in the north and
Balestier in the south-central areas. It is, however, noted that televiewer surveys down vertical bore-
holes are more prone to statistically over representing the horizontal and shallow angle joints and frac-
tures so that the vertical joints, such as those reported by Zhao (1998) may have been missed more

Figure 4. Rosette and contoured pole plots of more than 6000 joints recorded by optical televiewer. Rosette plot
shows strike of joints with dip angles of 70 or greater. Contour plot includes all discontinuities >30 dip.

Other fracture parameters are sometimes difficult to derive from standard ground investigation works
but joints typically appear rough and planar to slightly undulating in core samples. Phyo et al (2014)
reports from direct excavations in similar locations to the place where the GI described in Section 2.3

was undertaken and states that joints are typically found to be rough planar and of medium persistence
(i.e. 3-10m) although a high level of variance is encountered.
3.1 Understanding of groundwater flow in fractured rocks
Flow in fractured rock, including the Bukit Timah Granite, is predominantly via interconnected dis-
continuities or fractured fault zones (i.e. secondary porosity), with primary porosity (flow through
pore spaces in the solid rock mass) either non-existent or considerably less pronounced. The distin-
guishing characteristics of fractured rock aquifers is often large variability in hydraulic conductivity
between the fracture and the rock matrix, and anisotropic flow patterns. While water velocities
through individual fractures can be high overall the volumetric aquifer flow can be low if fractures
occupy a small percentage of the rock mass.

Weathering and fracturing can increase flow in crystalline rock masses, in addition dykes, joints and
contact zones can create preferential flow pathways, or can act as barriers to lateral groundwater
movement. As each weathered layer or zone of residual soil and the granite rock mass can exhibit dif-
ferent geological parameters this has implications for groundwater flow. As fracture presence and ap-
erture in a rock mass typically decreases with increasing depth so does hydraulic conductivity and this
is displayed in Figure 5.

The bulk of groundwater flow is expected along the interface between the weathered rock and the
overlying residual soil, at the G(IV) transition zone. This interface is typically highly weathered and
fractured, and thus displays some degree of both primary and secondary permeability (Zhao et al
1994). It is likely that Darcys hydraulic conductivity equation can be applied to the upper layers of
weathered rock while consideration of fractured flow is likely below the G(IV) interface. Groundwa-
ter flow in the underlying fractured rock is dependent on: the number of fractures, the geometry of the
fracture system and the characteristics of the fractures.

Figure 5. Decreasing rock mass permeability with decreasing weathering (Zhao et al 1994) on left, and decreas-
ing rock mass permeability with increasing depth (Zhao, 1998) on right.

Sameniego and Preist (1984) found that in studies across the world only a 10-20% of fractures are in-
terconnected; the remaining fractures are isolated and of low persistence, and thus are not conductive.
Observations at Singaporean quarries in the Bukit Timah Granite show groundwater flow is often at
isolated locations along a few fractures (Zhao 1998) and thus groundwater flow in the Bukit Timah
Granite is via large fractures and / or fault zones. Zhao (1998) analysed the results of 66 hydraulic
conductivity tests (targeted falling and rising head slug tests, and packer tests) in 20 boreholes (be-
tween 20 and 150 mbgl) in the Bukit Timah Granite and concluded that the hydraulic conductivity

ranged between 10
and 10
m/s (average 10
to 10
m/s). This is considered a large range and
highlights the complexity of quantifying fracture groundwater flow rates.
The heterogeneity and anisotropy of fractured rock aquifers complicates assessments of flow; two
methods are proposed that build on relatively simple equations relating to groundwater flow and frac-
ture characteristics.
4.1 Continuum approach
The continuum approach assumes that the fractured mass is hydraulically equivalent to a porous me-
dium, and thus relies on the application of Darcys law. This is considered an equivalent porous me-
dium approach and hydraulic properties of the system are modelled using equivalent coefficients (i.e.
permeability, porosity) to represent a volume average behavior of fractures within a fractures rock
mass (Cook 2003).

At a microscopic scale the value of porosity varies considerably, i.e. the sample may be all solid or all
pore, however as the sample size increases there may no longer be any variations in the sample. This
is described as the representative elementary volume (REV) and is a volume of sufficient size to accu-
rately represent a value without any significant statistical variations. In reality there is likely to be het-
erogeneities within fractured rocks and while an average value can be obtained the variance about the
mean will increase with the scale of the problem and it is likely there is no single value that can be as-
signed to represent faithfully the material properties. The concept states if a large enough volume of a
fractured geological material is analysed it will behave mathematically like a porous medium. Essen-
tially the variation in small scale features will decrease as the sample volume increases so that the fi-
nal representative volume in achieved.

The continuum approach is limited in that properties are only a function of position (i.e. it assumes
fractures are evenly spaced and identical) and do not vary with the size of the field, and is thus re-
stricted to the macroscopic regime (Domenico & Schwartz 1990). For many fractured rocks the repre-
sentative volume may exist on several scales and once a representative volume has been achieved in-
creasing the volume of the test unit will warrant no further effect on the average property. The
hierarchy of scales is demonstrated in Figure 6. Conversely, in certain circumstances, some theorists
indicate that as the scale of testing increases the scales of heterogeneity expand as well, incorporating
larger faults and fracture zones, and thus limit the potential accuracy of representative elemental vol-

Figure 6. The hierarchy of scales and the representative elementary volume (Domenico & Schwartz 1990)

Application of a continuum approach does not require the details of individual fractures; use of this
method for large scale problems requires data that is also large scale. The continuum approach relies
on groundwater flow equations that are applicable to most granular material and can be expressed in
terms of hydraulic head using Darcys law, where the velocity of flow is proportional to the hydraulic

Q = -KA (dh/dl)

Q = groundwater flow (m
K = constant of proportionality (a function of the medium and the fluid properties)
A = cross sectional area of flow (m
dh/dl = hydraulic gradient (the difference in hydraulic head between two points divided by the dis-
tance between these points, dimensionless) (Fetter 2014).

This law implies a linear relationship, homogeneous conditions and assumes flow is laminar. Varia-
tions of this equation should be implemented if flow is in steady state or if flow is generated from
leakage from overlying or underlying aquifers.

Typically field measurements of hydraulic conductivity (the rate at which water moves through a ma-
terial, m/time) are obtained and these can be used to determine transmissivity, or the amount of water
that can be transmitted horizontally through a unit width of a fully saturated aquifer under a hydraulic
gradient of 1.

T = bK

T = Transmissivity (m
b = saturated thickness of the aquifer (m)
K = hydraulic conductivity (m/d)
4.2 Discrete approach
In contrast to the equivalent porous medium approach, the discrete network approach accounts for the
details of individual fractures. The discrete, or discontinuum, approach assesses and calculates flow in

individual fractures or fracture sets. If fracture networks are complex it is impractical to characterise
the system by summing individual fractures, especially as many fracture properties are difficult to ac-
curately measure. This approach has three challenges:
Information about the fracture orientation, density, degree of connectivity, aperture opening
and smoothness is required. As these elements are likely to be variable fracture generalisa-
tions and averaging need to be made.
In large aperture fractures the flow may be turbulent rather than laminar, and thus the applica-
tion of Darcys law is no longer applicable.
Values of hydraulic conductivity will vary with changes in the 3-D stress field and fluid pres-

The Cubic Law states that for a given gradient in head, flow through a fracture is proportional or de-
pendent to the cube of the average fracture aperture; this law is valid where fluid pressure effects are
not important. This equation also assumes that the flow rate is directly proportional to the pressure
gradient. Romm (1966) developed the following equation to calculate the volumetric flow rate for
laminar flow between two smooth parallel plates:


K = 12

K = hydraulic conductivity

= density of water
g = gravitational acceleration
b = aperture (Nb is the planar porosity)
= fluid viscosity

There are iterations of the Cubic Law that account for fracture roughness.

Snow (1968) developed the following equation to calculate equivalent hydraulic conductivity or per-
meability for a set of planar fractures:

K = 12 or k = 12

N = number of joints per unit distance across the rock face (L
k = permeability.

In actual conditions, it is unlikely that fractures would represent parallel plates and due to connectivi-
ty, infilling and variation in fracture aperture a more accurate flow model may involve localised flow
channeling. However, such conditions are difficult to model due to their complexity as well as the in-
ability to gather sufficient data on the required input parameters, and such models must be assessed
using a more probabilistic approach.
4.3 Numerical Models
Deterministic numerical models utilise the equations outlined in Sections 4.1 and 4.2 to synthesise
known data and predict groundwater conditions. Modelling allows for a bigger scale conceptual un-
derstanding of a system behavior compared to analytic equations, but relies on a sufficient quantity
and quality of field data for relatively accurate results (Fetter 2014). Modelling can also be used to
predict the outcomes of hypothetical flow situations. The physical conditions of the aquifer, including
the features controlling flow (i.e. the geological layers and their extent) and flow parameters (e.g. hy-
draulic conductivity, specific storage, porosity) require investigation. An inherent problem of model-
ling is the scale at which the model is applied and the scale of the input field data; difficulties arise
when the scales do not match (Cook 2003).

Numerical models will vary depending on the scale of interest and the purpose of the model. The scale
of interest is important, as fractures can be connected on a large scale but may be dominated by either
a small number of large fractures or a large number of small fractures.


In an equivalent porous medium approach individual fractures are not explicitly defined in the model,
rather the heterogeneity of the fractured rock system is modelled using regions of an equivalent po-
rous medium (or representative elementary volumes) (Cook 2003) as described in Section 4.1. This
technique is best employed in steady state systems and assumes the representative elementary volume
is defined. This is a single porosity approach with a limited ability to model anisotropy. MODFLOW,
developed by the United States Geological Survey and FEFLOW are three-dimensional (3D) finite-
difference groundwater models (i.e. uses discrete points arranged in a grid pattern). MODFLOW is
considered an international standard for simulating and predicting groundwater conditions and can be
employed to predict bulk average features of a flow system (i.e. continuum approach). As the area be-
ing modeled increases it becomes more appropriate to employ equivalent porous medium modelling
approaches as more of the aquifer is represented by uniform hydrogeological properties; this compli-
cates matters as it is difficult to determine larger scale hydrogeological properties from small scale

A dual porosity approach is utilised where there is significant permeability, and assigns properties of
fractures and matrix elements and exchange coefficients. Both MODFLOW and FEFLOW can model
dual porosity approaches. The fracture network and the bulk rock mass are represented by two differ-
ent flow equations with relatively higher / lower hydraulic conductivities. By using a coupling mecha-
nism that represents the rate of mass transfer and the fracture network geometry this method accounts
for the exchange and transfer between the fractures and rock matrix. Therefore transient flow, where
the delay in the water exchange between the matrix and fractures as a result of pressure gradients can
be simulated (Cook 2003).

Discrete fracture network modelling is suitable for small scale modelling studies; with increased com-
plexity additional computational power is needed to simulate the discrete fracture network and will
likely result in simplification of details. It is likely that only selected fractures will be modelled due to
the difficulty in characterising all fractures and the computation requirements. Two more widely
known discrete fracture models are FRAC3DVS and NAPSAC, these are finite element models alt-
hough NAPSAC models groundwater flow in fractures and thus assumes the matrix has zero porosity
while FRAC3DVS models groundwater flow in both fractures and the matrix, although only a few
fractures can be included. FracWorks XP for MODFLOW introduces discrete fracture network model-
ling capabilities to MODFLOW and thus can make this software suitable for both approaches. Com-
putation limitations mean that in some cases only regular fractures geometries are acceptable.

Other methods of analysis using commercially available 2D finite element modelling software such as
SEEP/W may also be employed for much of the analyses described although the software can only re-
ally model strata using a continuum approach, fracture zones can be modelled as individual layers and
given equivalent permeability parameters.
Data collected from recent investigations (previously described in Section 2.3) included results from
over 200 permeability tests, including packer tests, slug tests (both rising and falling head) and some
triaxial laboratory tests on the GVI and GV. The results are presented in Figure 7, Figure 8 and Figure
9; and in Table 2 and Table 3 below.
Table 2. K Results for BTG Weathering Grades. Table 3. K Results for BTG RQD Values.
Grade K - Range K - Average RQD K - Range K - Average
GVI 1.2x10
to 2.9x10
m/s 2.2x10
m/s 80 100 3.5x10
to 1.5x10
m/s 5.2x10
GV 8.3x10
to 2.9x10
m/s 5.6x10
m/s 60 79 9.5x10
to 9.6x10
m/s 9.6x10
GIV 3.2x10
to 2.5x10
m/s 4.0x10
m/s 45 59 1.7x10
to 1.8x10
m/s 4.3x10
GIII 7.1x10
to 2.0x10
m/s 1.0x10
m/s 30 44 7.1x10
to 2.5x10
m/s 5.2x10
GII 9.5x10
to 1.5x10
m/s 9.1x10
m/s 5 29 3.2x10
to 8.3x10
m/s 1.2x10
GI 3.5x10
to 2.3x10
m/s 3.1x10
m/s 0 4 8.3x10
to 2.5x10
m/s 5.8x10


Figure 7. Measured K value results from packer tests, slug tests (rising and falling head), and triaxial tests.

Figure 8. K value results from Figure 7 separated into weathering grades.

Figure 9. Summarised frequency distributions of the number of hydraulic conductivity results separated into
weathering grades (GIV to GI only).

The measured data shows a very high degree of scatter of data although on average the hydraulic con-
ductivity generally increases with increase in weathering grade (up to GIV) and with decreasing RQD
(below an RQD of ~30) and as shown in Figure 9 the results are fairly normally distributed. However,
these average values although useful for showing the general trend are unlikely to help in the under-
standing of site conditions and should not necessarily be used for simplified hydrogeological models
of sites in the Bukit Timah Granite.

Instead the most important observation shown in these graphs is the range of hydraulic conductivities
recorded in similar strata, in similar ground conditions, e.g. measuring up to five orders of magnitude
difference in the GII. In addition the RQD, although a reasonable measure of how fractured a rock is,
does not provide much correlation with hydraulic conductivity either, demonstrating that even in high-
ly fractured and / or highly weathered rocks factors such as aperture and infilling can inhibit permea-
bility to the degree that relatively unweathered intact rock with only a few key fractures can be signif-
icantly more permeable.

Such issues make accurate prediction of material permeability very difficult. Even with direct testing,
as the graphs and tables above show, its unlikely that the range of test results obtained for a given site
will reflect the actual range of conditions because the actual volume of rock mass tested is typically a
very small percentage of the area being investigated. Given the above findings it is considered perti-
nent to consider the possibility that high permeability zones may be present within the rock mass, re-
gardless of the apparent quality of the rock. Measures to address these risks are discussed further in
Section 6 and Section 7.

Lastly, although not strictly concerning fractured rock, it is notable that the results from the GVI ma-
terial show relatively low hydraulic conductivity in the laboratory based triaxial tests (typically ~10
m/s) but relatively high results from the field permeability slug tests (~10
m/s). This probably indi-
cates that the presence of relict fractures and fissures in the weathered soil mass still provide preferen-
tial drainage pathways, as these features are unlikely to be picked up in small scale laboratory tests,
indicating that field tests are more representative of the soil mass permeability on a macro scale.
6.1 Continuum Approach
An example of the continuum approach has been used based on actual data from a central location
near Ang Mo Kio where a deep excavation was proposed. Application of this approach relies on the
use of field collected hydraulic conductivity data from a number of boreholes, recharge wells and pie-
zometers constructed at the site.

The boreholes indicated that the geology at this location comprised an approximately 7 m thick sur-
face covering of fill underlain by the Kallang Formation (peaty clay) and GVI residual soil of the
Bukit Timah Granite to depth varying from 16 to 30 mbgl. Underlying the GVI residual soil, granite
rock of the Bukit Timah Granite is present showing decreasing weathering grade with depth from GIV
to GII. The GIV is located between 20 and 32 mbgl and GIII to GII was located to a depth of around
50 mbgl at around which depth the boreholes were terminated. The GIII and GII was fairly variable
and both were present at depth in the geological profile. It should be noted that other complexities
such as an apparent dyke were located in this area but these are not discussed further as the purpose of
this section is to illustrate a basic analytical continuum approach and highlight its benefits and limita-

Sixteen packer tests were undertaken between the GIII and GII units, fourteen of which were predom-
inantly located in the GIII as this was the more fractured unit and more likely to be an issue during fu-
ture excavation works. No packer tests specifically targeted the GIV, even though it was considered
most likely to be most permeable, as it was possibly determined that any future excavation works
would install a suitable earth retaining system through the fractured GIV thus preventing any ground-
water ingress from this layer.

The range of hydraulic conductivity measurements from the packer tests intersecting the fractured
GIII rock unit was: 1.29 x 10
and 6.38 x 10
m/s, and the average was 1.4 x 10
m/s. A majority of
the sample sections had an RQD greater than 50% so was not considered to be highly fractured and as
the variance of the hydraulic conductivity values about the mean was relatively low the GIII hydraulic
conductivity may have been assumed to contain a statistically repeatable sample size. Based on these
results it may be reasonable to a select the mean K value from the data range and derive average aqui-

fer properties such as mean transmissivity which over ~15m vertical profile of GIII gives a total
transmissivity of 2.1 x 10

This method does not take into consideration fracture groundwater flow, rather the fractured rock
mass is treated as a singular unit and despite the relatively high number of hydraulic conductivity tests
at this location there is no way to be certain that the representative elementary volume has been cap-
tured. It does, allow these basic parameters to be taken forward and used for more detailed analysis
but any assessment must be mindful that, as was shown in Section 5, the potential variability may be
very large and even taking the upper bound results from the on-site test data is unlikely to represent
the most permeable zones in the site and the risk of these should be considered even if the general
conditions are represented by the test results.

In addition it should be noted that calculations of storativity, the volume of water released from an aq-
uifer under pumping conditions (another key aquifer property), cannot be calculated without the ob-
servations of the radial distance of drawdown, as would be observed in monitoring wells during
pumping tests.
6.2 Discrete Fracture Approach
A discrete, or discontinuum, analysis may be undertaken by assessing flow transmissivity along indi-
vidual fractures. This method uses the cubic law described in Section 4.2 and assumes fractures are
smooth, planar and continuous.

By studying televiewer results or observations from excavations it is feasible to estimate joint aperture
and roughness values along with joint orientation. Details of infilling are difficult to derive from
televiewers but coupled with discontinuity analysis from core samples estimates may be made. Details
on persistence and joint connectivity are not accounted for and cannot be assessed directly by this
method but by comparing results to packer tests approximate values may be provisionally assumed.

Using the cubic law method it can be seen that the transmissivity of a single joint of 1mm aperture has
a transmissivity 1x10
/s which means if a 1m thickness of aquifer had a single continuous 1mm
joint running along its length then the effective hydraulic conductivity of that 1m thick section would
be 1x10
m/s which is particularly high and would be equivalent to the permeability of some gravels.
However, as highlighted this analysis is based on idealized assumptions, described above. As such
televiewer results were analysed in sections of boreholes where packer tests had previously been taken
and results were compared to those derived from the cubic law.

An example is given where a packer test was undertaken over a 2m length at a depth of 45.5 to 47.5m
in fractured GIII to GIV material. The packer result was relatively high with a K = 9.1x10
m/s. The
televiewer recorded 10 significant joints with apparent apertures of 0.25 to 2mm. Using the cubic law
the cumulative transmissivity of the 10 joints in the 2m section was reported to be 2.1x10
/s which
divided by the length of section gives an effective hydraulic conductivity of 1.1x10
m/s, more than
three orders of magnitude greater than the packer result. However, by factoring infill into the joints
the aperture is reduced and the permeability is likewise reduced. Sensitivity analysis was undertaken
and it was demonstrated that by reducing the aperture to 10% of its measured width (allowing for the
effects of significant infilling as well as the reduction in connectivity) the effective hydraulic conduc-
tivity is reduced to 1.1x10
m/s, roughly in line with the packer result. Seven other tests gave similar
results when apparent aperture was reduced to between 15% to 2% of its measured width demonstrat-
ing a significant correlation. Given the limited number of tests analysed the sample set is not consid-
ered sufficient to prove that correlation and other results may require much larger or smaller effective
aperture percentage reductions. However, the method may prove to be useful in assessing critical are-

Another observation from the above assessment is how large the potential hydraulic conductivity
could be if the fractures were open and connected with limited infill. These conditions may occur lo-
cally creating preferential flow channels which further wash out infill materials creating even larger
flow rates and volumes. These conditions may be particularly prevalent along fracture / deformation
zones associated with faults and along valley centres.


Analysis of general groundwater flow in this manner, by assessing individual fracture conditions, is
however, likely to be impractical for many projects due to the time taken to undertake such an assess-
ment, and as mentioned critical fracture parameters such as infill and connectivity cannot be assessed
with sufficient accuracy to give accurate groundwater flow predictions. As such the method described
may be better used to identify particularly large open fractures, as described above, and assess poten-
tial worst credible groundwater flow volumes at critical locations.
6.3 Summary of Groundwater Flow Modelling Approaches in the Bukit Timah Granite
The different approaches used to quantify groundwater flow are critiqued for their practical suitabil-
ity, minimum input data requirements and ability to quantify groundwater flow in Table 4. Note that
numerical analyses have not been undertaken specifically as part of this study but it is important to
understand how the continuum and discrete approaches can feed into these and what the advantages
and disadvantages of these are and hence these methods are also included in Table 4.

Table 4. Advantages and disadvantages of the different groundwater flow modelling approaches
Approach Advantages Disadvantages
Continuum analytical
model based on general
aquifer properties from
field data
Cheap & fast;
Relatively low data intensity for gen-
eral assessment;
Provides starting point for numerical
No particular modelling software need-
Does not typically represent actual condi-
May miss critical flow path features and
give a false sense of knowledge on the
Provides closed solutions i.e. not on the
scale of the conceptual model.
Discontinuum analyti-
cal model based on
fracture properties de-
rived from field data
Able to identify potential high permea-
bility zones from televiewer results in
the absence of permeability test data;
Simple method;
Suitable for assessing critical locations;
Can be used to demonstrate high flow
zones in otherwise competent rock;
No particular modelling software need-
Necessary parameters such as connectivi-
ty and infill cannot be determined;
Dependent on having suitable fracture
data such as from televiewer;
Depending on GI, it may miss critical
flow path features and give a false sense
of knowledge on the hydrogeology;
Labour intensive to assess many individ-
ual fractures.
Equivalent porous me-
dium numerical model
Simple numerical model;
Moderately data intensive;
Large scale / regional;
Bulk average volumetric scale.
Limited application to transient flow
Assumes representative elementary vol-
ume (REV) has been defined;
Simplifies fracture network conceptual
model structure.
Dual porosity nu-
merical model
Suitable for high flow systems;
Can allow for water exchange / delayed
hydraulic response resulting from ma-
trix storage.
Can oversimplify geometry;
Difficult to quantify input parameters;
Assumes REV has been defined.
Discrete numerical
Explicit representation of individual
fractures / fracture zones and thus pro-
vides the most precise measurements if
using accurate field data;
Small scale & detailed.
Highly data intensive, which is costly &
time consuming to obtain;
Not applicable to large scale / regional
Computational power & modelling soft-
ware & software knowledge needed.

Given the above summary, it can be seen that a wide range of approaches are available for assessment
of the hydrogeology in the Bukit Timah Granite and for a project in Singapore involving deep excava-
tion or tunnelling any of the above approaches could be employed as it depends on the data available
and the specific problem being analysed. However, typically it is recommended that a basic continu-
um approach is undertaken to assess general flow properties initially. This kind of analysis represents
the flow in the GVI to GIV, and given the frequently fractured nature of the GIII, the average flow

through this material can usually be modelled with this method. Where the fractures become less fre-
quent the method is considered less applicable but given that much of the underground infrastructure
in Singapore is located in the upper 40m of the subsurface, it is the fractured weathered zone that is
most relevant.

Following initial continuum assessments to assess general aquifer conditions sensitivity analyses
should be undertaken to account for the likely variation in the permeability of the geology. The sensi-
tivity analysis would also be undertaken as a continuum analysis but may incorporate potential
groundwater flows derived from discrete methods at critical locations. It would likely be impractical
to model an entire site using a discrete approach alone, but large scale discrete analysis may be incor-
porated where large scale linear features such as faults or dykes cross the site in question. Numerical
models should be employed where possible as they are more capable of assessing the complex condi-
tions and software capable of three dimensional analysis is of particular use where available. Howev-
er, it should be noted that this very general approach recommendation should only be considered a
starting point and regardless of the methods used residual risks and uncertainty will probably remain.

So it can be seen that a number of methods are available, all of which may be used to assess the hy-
drogeology in the Bukit Timah Granite depending on the circumstances but it is always necessary that
any assessment considers its limitations and records what risks remain because all the assessment ap-
proaches described above will typically make significant assumptions and few are likely to represent
the true hydrogeological conditions because the situation in the Bukit Timah Granite is generally too
complex and geotechnical and hydrogeological investigations are generally not capable of assessing
the all the parameters necessary to fully describe the true conditions.

In order to account for the uncertainty and risk described above, the flow analysis and modelling
should always be accompanied by a sufficient hydrogeological assessment which has identified the
potential risks and possible variation in anticipated conditions so that a sensitivity analysis can be un-
dertaken and flow assessments can be re-done to check for potential worst credible situations. Consid-
erations for hydrogeological assessments are further described in Section 7.
In order to gain a sufficient understanding of the hydrogeological setting and derive the appropriate
parameters required so that groundwater flow can be modelled most accurately it is necessary to un-
dertake a suitable hydrogeological assessment including a sufficient intrusive ground investigation.
Too often geotechnical assessments and investigations neglect the potential hydrogeological risks and
undertake a limited number of permeability tests which are often poorly targeted. Outlined below are
some key considerations which should be included in any hydrogeological site assessment in the Bukit
Timah Granite along with appropriate investigation methods which may be included with a geotech-
nical investigation or may be undertaken separately as a standalone hydrogeological investigation.

Risks and uncertainty associated with the hydrogeological conditions are inherent in sites located in
the Bukit Timah Granite so in order to mitigate this, a number of measures may be undertaken includ-
ing consideration of geomorphological and hydrogeological setting; provision of sufficiently detailed
and focussed hydrogeological investigation; interpretation of investigation data and recognition of its
limits so potential uncertainty can be assessed and these conditions can be accounted for during sensi-
tivity analyses and design of risk mitigation measures.
7.1 Hydrogeological Setting
Any site assessment should consider the geomorphological and hydrogeological setting. This should
include assessment of the following:
General site location such as whether the site is site is in a valley or along a current or former
drainage path along which groundwater is likely to flow continuously, or perhaps the site is
on a hill from which groundwater will naturally flow away from, only recharging during pre-

Presence of nearby water bodies , such as the sea, reservoirs, lakes or rivers must be consid-
ered because these may be in hydraulic connectivity with the groundwater beneath the study
Potential presence of faults or dykes as these represent linear features with fracture connectiv-
ity which often develop into preferential drainage paths.
Presence of other features of note such as springs, hot springs or boggy ground.
7.2 Hydrogeological Investigation Basic Aims and Methods
Where intrusive ground investigation works are to be undertaken at the site, field works should be
planned to specifically assess the hydrogeological conditions and provide suitable parameters for the
various approaches to modelling groundwater flow.

The aims of the investigation will depend on the specific aims of the project but for almost all investi-
gations for underground infrastructure, they should, as a minimum, aim to:
Allow creation of a geological and hydrogeological conceptual model so groundwater flow
can be modelled in the individual units;
Assess hydraulic conductivity of each geological unit, ideally in different areas of the site, in
order to assess permeability parameters and calculate groundwater flow volumes;
Assess the nature of fractures in the rock units so discrete fractures can be assessed for poten-
tial permeability; and
Monitor groundwater levels from various horizons.

Ideally, the investigation should also aim to:
Assess the general permeability properties of the site on a larger scale to see how groundwater
flows through the site as a whole rather than just measuring permeability in small zones;
Derive additional aquifer parameters such as storativity to show the volume of effective pore
space and identify how the water table will respond in a drawdown event;
Assess groundwater flow direction to understand the original flow through the site prior to

The field investigation program must be targeted to the objectives of the study and for the fractured
rock mass, the investigation should concentrate on collecting groundwater information at major dis-
continuities in rock masses, such as faults and zones of weaknesses / weathering where flow is ex-
pected to be greatest.

There are typically four main techniques used to collect hydrogeological data in geology such as the
Bukit Timah Granite: during the drilling of boreholes; via the installation and monitoring of ground-
water monitoring wells or piezometers; via the hydraulic testing of boreholes and / or groundwater
wells; and via surface and downhole geophysical techniques. Laboratory tests may also be employed
but are less useful for the fractured rock mass. These are further summarised in Table 5 below.

Table 5. Suitable Methods for Hydrogeological Investigations in the Bukit Timah Granite
Investigation Method Description Purpose

Standard Boreholes
with Coring
(Essential for most in-
Core sampling of rock mass.
Drilling muds should not be used if
monitoring installation or hydraulic
tests are proposed in the hole as they
reduce water flow into or out of bore-
hole. Coring may be paused at intervals
to measure water flow into borehole.
Develop conceptual geological and hy-
drogeological model.
Identify fracture properties.
Allow downhole tests and installations.

Identify high permeability zones.
Inclined Boreholes
(Highly beneficial for
fault zones)

Some boreholes may be inclined to
help identify vertical fractures, faults,
dykes and other linear features.
Linear features may be more likely to act
as preferential drainage paths due to in-
creased connectivity so should be locat-
Allow downhole tests and installations.

Investigation Method Description Purpose
Open hole drilling with
water inflow measure-
(Highly beneficial in
conjuction with stand-
ard boreholes)

Where drilling muds are not used and
water added to the drill hole in a con-
trolled measured manner groundwater
flow into or out of the borehole can be
measured for the full length of the
borehole column.
Method may be combined with core
drilling in same hole.
Develop hydrogeological model.
Gain hydrogeological profile of full
borehole column.
Identify high permeability zones which
can be targeted for installations (e.g. pie-
zos) and / or hydraulic tests (e.g. pack-
Allow downhole tests and installations.

Optical and Acoustic
(Highly beneficial)
Televiewer survey downhole to assess
joint orientation and aperture. Optical
televiewer to give clear picture of joint
condition. Acoustic to verify and allow
survey where sediment cannot be con-
trolled in the borehole water.
To be undertaken in vertical and in-
clined boreholes.
Assess fracture orientation and aperture
to allow discrete fracture analysis using
the discontinuum approach.
To assess rock condition where open hole
drilling methods used.

Electrical Resistivity
Surface Survey
(Moderately beneficial)
Wenner (shallow) and Schlumberger
(deep) methods for electrical resistivity
Develop conceptual geological model.
Assess potential fault and fracture zone
Allow better targeting of boreholes and
Help verify groundwater table.
Seismic Refraction and
3D Reflection Survey.
(Moderately beneficial)
New seismic methods using accelerated
weight drop can give acceptable under-
ground profiles in Bukit Timah Granite,
highlighting soil rock interface as well
as faults and fracture zones.
Develop conceptual geological model.
Assess potential fault and fracture zone
Allow better targeting of boreholes and
Laboratory Testing

Lab permeability tests
(Moderately beneficial
for GVI and GV only)
Laboratory based permeability testing
using permeameter on undisturbed soil
samples from boreholes.
Assess matrix permeability of GVI and
GV soils to develop hydraulic conductiv-
ity parameters for continuum analysis.
Groundwater Monitoring Wells
Piezometer and stand-
pipe installations.
(Highly beneficial)
Installations with response zones tar-
geted to individual geological units and
critical fracture zones identified from
Piezometers useful for multiple instal-
lations in same hole but standpipes pre-
ferred for hydraulic testing.
Installations needed at a minimum of
three locations to contour head levels.
Assess groundwater table level and pie-
zometric head of various units in the hy-
drogeological model.
Assess groundwater flow directions.
Allow long term monitoring to confirm
hydrogeological model and potential pie-
zometric fluctuations due to precipitation
and seasonal variations.
Allow hydraulic testing of response zone.
Observation wells for
pumping tests.
(Moderately beneficial)
If pumping tests are to be undertaken
observation wells with piezometers in-
stalled should be located around the
pumping test at variable distances.
To assess groundwater response to pump-
ing test (see below).
Fulfil same purpose as other monitoring
wells (see above).
Hydraulic Tests

Slug tests - falling and
rising head permeabil-
(Highly beneficial)
Rising and falling head slug tests may
be undertaken directly in the borehole
or in monitoring wells.
Tests should be targeted to assess spe-
cific geological units and critical areas
Derive and develop hydraulic conductivi-
ty parameters for the continuum ground-
water flow models.
May be used to verify results for discrete
approach where fracture data is available.

Investigation Method Description Purpose
identified from boreholes.
Packer tests (single or
(Highly beneficial)
Packer tests may be undertaken directly
in the borehole or in monitoring wells.
Tests should be targeted to assess spe-
cific geological units and critical areas
identified from boreholes. Typical zone
length 3-5m.
Test most suitable for fractured rock.
Derive and develop hydraulic conductivi-
ty parameters for the continuum ground-
water flow models.
May be used to verify results for discrete
approach where fracture data is available.
Pumping tests
(Highly beneficial
where feasible)
Pumping tests may be undertaken over
multiple geological units or may target
localised fracture zones (such as the
soil rock interface).
Pumping tests may last only a day or
may continue for weeks depending on
the requirements.
Develop a better understanding of the
larger scale aquifer properties (including
storativity) of a site and develop the hy-
drogeological model. They provide
strong data on connectivity between geo-
logical units.
Pumping tests give extremely useful data
but may not be feasible for small scale
Tracer tests
(Moderately beneficial
where feasible)
Tracer dyes or other markers may be
introduced into up gradient wells and
the concentration may be measured in
down gradient wells.
Develop a better understanding of the
hydrogeological model. Provide infor-
mation on connectivity between geologi-
cal units as well as hydraulic conductivi-
ty. May not be feasible for small scale

Other methods such as Downhole Density, Neutron and Resistivity Logs may also be used to assess
physical properties such as porosity, moisture content, fracturing but this is generally not necessary in
shallow boreholes in the Bukit Timah Granite.
7.3 Interpretation of Data and Consideration of Risks and Uncertainty
By undertaking an assessment and investigation as outlined above, suitable high quality data hydroge-
ological should be available to allow accurate and honest derivation of aquifer parameters to be incor-
porated into both continuum and discrete flow models which can then be used in numerical models.
However, even with a well-planned hydrogeological assessment and detailed investigation uncertainty
will remain due to the extreme levels of hydrogeological variability in the Bukit Timah Granite, as
discussed in Section 5 and Section 6. As such interpretation of data and development of the hydrogeo-
logical model should consider potential probabilities of high permeability zones and large groundwa-
ter flow volumes. Ideally various models should be created and sensitivity analyses performed on the
aquifer parameters to assess the potential impacts. Sometimes this level of analysis will not be possi-
ble but in all cases risk assessments should be undertaken and mitigation measures considered if the
hydrogeological conditions are worse than anticipated.
The shallow (<100m) weathered units of the Bukit Timah Granite forms a multi-layered variable ge-
ology which results in a highly complex and variable hydrogeological regime. Groundwater flow in
the Bukit Timah Granite rock mass is typically via secondary flow i.e. concentrated along the inter-
connected discontinuities in the rock and each layer or zone exhibit its own hydrogeological parame-

On average, the hydraulic conductivity increases with increased fracturing and weathering but these
parameters do not correlate consistently due to less easily quantifiable parameters such as fracture in-
fill and connectivity having a major impact. As such very large degrees of variation are exhibited,
with observations from recent investigations showing hydraulic conductivity results with five orders
of magnitude difference in the GII unit alone (10
m/s to 10
m/s). As a result factors other than

weathering grade and number of fractures must be considered to accurately model the groundwater
flow and assess the potential variation risks.

Two methods to quantify groundwater flow have been provided: the continuum and discrete approach.
Use of the continuum approach ignores the details of individual fractures and the unit is treated as po-
rous continuum. The discrete method explicitly defines individual fractures and extrapolates fracture
flow. These methods can be applied analytically or via numerical models; analytical approaches pro-
vide quick, cheap and localised assessments of groundwater flow while numerical approaches are
broader, but require greater data input and software.

For both approaches the flow modelling should be undertaken as part of a comprehensive hydrogeo-
logical assessment which considers the site setting and should include an intrusive investigation to
produce field data of sufficient quality and quantity to develop the hydrogeological model.

The type of field data required depends on the approach utilised but best practice is to investigate for
both approaches and tests should be targeted to gather the most useful data from each unit and from
critical areas such as faults and fracture zones where risks may be greatest.

In conclusion it is recommended that any hydrogeological assessment considers both methods of anal-
ysis and where possible performs numerical modelling that includes sensitivity analysis and assess-
ment of potentially worst credible conditions because uncertainty and hydrogeological risk are inher-
ent in the Bukit Timah Granite.
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