Hyper-Resolution Continental-Scale 3-D Aquifer Parameterization for Groundwater Modeling

Inge de Graaf, Laura Condon, Reed Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Groundwater is the world's most important freshwater resource. Despite this importance, groundwater flow and interactions between groundwater and other parts of the hydrological cycle are often neglected or simplified in large-scale hydrological models. One of the challenges in simulating groundwater flow and continental to global scales is the lack of consistent globally available hydrogeological data. These input data are needed for a more realistic physical representation of the groundwater system, enabling the simulation of groundwater head dynamics and lateral flows. A realistic representation of the subsurface is especially important as large-scale hydrological models move to finer resolutions and aim to provide accurate and locally relevant hydrologic information everywhere. In this study, we aim at improving and extending on current available large-scale data sets providing information of the subsurface. We present a detailed aquifer representation for the continental United States and Canada at hyper resolution (250 × 250 m). We integrate local hydrogeological information, including observations of aquifer layer thickness, conductivity, and vertical structure, to obtain representative aquifer parameter values applicable to the continental scale. The methods used are simple and can be expanded to other parts of the world. Hydrological simulations were performed using the integrated hydrological model ParFlow and demonstrated improved model performance when using the new aquifer parameterization. Our results support that more detailed and accurate aquifer parameterization will advance our understanding of the groundwater system at larger scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019WR026004
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • aquifer parameterization
  • groundwater
  • large-scale hydrology
  • modeling


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