Patterns of distinct preferential pathways for fluid flow and solute transport are ubiquitous in heterogeneous, saturated and partially saturated porous media. Yet, the underlying reasons for their emergence, and their characterization and quantification, remain enigmatic. Here we analyze simulations of steady-state fluid flow and solute transport in two-dimensional, heterogeneous saturated porous media with a relatively short correlation length. We demonstrate that the downstream concentration of solutes in preferential pathways implies a downstream declining entropy in the transverse distribution of solute transport pathways. This reflects the associated formation and downstream steepening of a concentration gradient transversal to the main flow direction. With an increasing variance of the hydraulic conductivity field, stronger transversal concentration gradients emerge, which is reflected in an even smaller entropy of the transversal distribution of transport pathways. By defining “self-organization” through a reduction in entropy (compared to its maximum), our findings suggest that a higher variance and thus randomness of the hydraulic conductivity coincides with stronger macroscale self-organization of transport pathways. ... mehrSimulations at lower driving head differences revealed an even stronger self-organization with increasing variance. While these findings appear at first sight striking, they can be explained by recognizing that emergence of spatial self-organization requires, in light of the second law of thermodynamics, that work be performed to establish transversal concentration gradients. The emergence of steeper concentration gradients requires that even more work be performed, with an even higher energy input into an open system. Consistently, we find that the energy input necessary to sustain steady-state fluid flow and tracer transport grows with the variance of the hydraulic conductivity field as well. Solute particles prefer to move through pathways of very high power in the transversal flow component, and these pathways emerge in the vicinity of bottlenecks of low hydraulic conductivity. This is because power depends on the squared spatial head gradient, which is in these simulations largest in regions of low hydraulic conductivity.