Ground Water Modeling

Background

Groundwater models are computer implementations of a set of mathematical descriptions of the physical, chemical, and/or biological processes governing the flow of water (sometimes in conjunction with other fluids) and the transport of chemical constituents and biota in the subsurface. They are used by groundwater specialists as a tool in analyzing and understanding the complexities of a groundwater system, and for computing the response of such a system to natural, and proposed or historic man-induced changes. 

The development of an operational model of a specific groundwater system is often called "model application" or "model construction."  To obtain an acceptable and defensible representation of the hydrogeologic system involved, model application should follow a step-wise protocol, such as described in ASTM Standard D-5447 (Standard Guide for Application of a Ground Water Flow Model to a Site Specific Problem).  The construction of an operational model of a groundwater system consist of four major stages (see Figure):

  1. formulation of objectives and conceptualization of  the groundwater system
  2. code selection and model construction
  3. calibration
  4. prediction and uncertainty analysis 

Each stage consists of various steps.  Often, results from a particular step are used as feedback for previous steps, resulting in a rather iterative procedure.

Level of complexity, detail, and effort in modeling should be commensurate with project objectives. Modeling is one of the tools in the ground water professional's toolbox, albeit a very powerful one. It should not replace detailed site investigation and professional judgement.

Capabilities and Facilities

HHI staff has more than 30 years of experience in developing and testing of numerical and analytical groundwater modeling software, applying such software to a wide variety of regional and site-scale systems and contaminants, reviewing model applications and modeling software, providing training in groundwater modeling, and advising on groundwater modeling related issues to government agencies and industry.  HHI staff is familiar with a wide variety of groundwater modeling software, including modeling interface, environmental data base, and visualization software, and GIS. HHI has access to a variety of computer facilities and software, and can provide additional expertise in hydrologic systems analysis, GIS/ geo-databases, hydro-, and geochemistry, and geotechnical and remediation engineering through its alliance with Hydrologic Systems Analysis, LLC. [HSA], Golden, Colorado.

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