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Energy and Environment Directorate

Research Capabilities

Groundwater Modeling

Groundwater is an important resource for public water supply, irrigation and industrial use. This subsurface water occurs beneath the water table in soils and geologic formations that are fully saturated. Managing this resource requires a thorough understanding of the movement of this water, its withdrawal and replenishment rates, and the fate and transport of any contaminants that may be present. Numerical models are commonly used to transform the understanding of groundwater movement and contaminant fate and transport into knowledge that can be used to make decisions about resource management and contaminant remediation.

PNNL has been developing and applying predictive models for groundwater flow and contaminant transport in hydrologic systems since the 1960's. Developments have included analytic models, standard finite difference and finite element codes for fluid flow and solute transport, particle transport codes, and high-performance flow and reactive transport codes designed to run on parallelized machines. To address the issue of aquifer heterogeneity, the PNNL uses of the numerical laboratory approach, which involves the generation and use of large, complex, synthetic data sets to study the various parameter interpretation and interpolation issues that arise in highly heterogeneous natural groundwater systems. We support our clients by using our knowledge and tools to:

  • Integrate existing aquifer information to determine its sufficiency
  • Optimize aquifer characterization activities
  • Predict groundwater flow velocity and direction
  • Predict groundwater contaminant concentrations and transport rates
  • Optimize groundwater remediation technologies
  • Evaluate the immediate impacts of groundwater remediation technologies
  • Predict the long-term impacts of both remediation and no-action alternatives
  • Estimate risk to the public

Point of Contact

Energy and Environment

Core Research Areas