Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Characterizing and modeling fluid flow through fractured rock is vital to limiting the spread of chemical contaminants through rock features; for understanding where reservoirs of petroleum, water, or geothermal resources may form; and for engineering stable and resilient underground infrastructure. Over the past twenty years there have been significant advances in abilities to model and characterize these pathways, but significant challenges remain. This is due in part to the inherent complexity of modeling the interactions between concurrent physical, chemical, thermal and biological processes that influence the location of fractures and the movement of contaminants through them. This report describes how existing tools--some only recently developed--can help solve or avoid problems related to contaminants in fractured rock, and how practitioners, researchers, and decision makers take an interdisciplinary approach to engineering in the fractured rock environment.