The concept of comparative information yield curves and its application to risk-based site characterization

Felipe P.J. De Barros, Yoram Rubin, Reed M. Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Defining rational and effective hydrogeological data acquisition strategies is of crucial importance as such efforts are always resource limited. Usually, strategies are developed with the goal of reducing uncertainty, but less often they are developed in the context of their impacts on uncertainty. This paper presents an approach for determining site characterization needs on the basis of human health risk. The main challenge is in striking a balance between reduction in uncertainty in hydrogeological, behavioral, and physiological parameters. Striking this balance can provide clear guidance on setting priorities for data acquisition and for better estimating adverse health effects in humans. This paper addresses this challenge through theoretical developments and numerical simulation. A wide range of factors that affect site characterization needs are investigated, including the dimensions of the contaminant plume and additional length scales that characterize the transport problem, as well as the model of human health risk. The concept of comparative information yield curves is used for investigating the relative impact of hydrogeological and physiological parameters in risk. Results show that characterization needs are dependent on the ratios between flow and transport scales within a risk-driven approach. Additionally, the results indicate that human health risk becomes less sensitive to hydrogeological measurements for large plumes. This indicates that under near-ergodic conditions, uncertainty reduction in human health risk may benefit from better understanding of the physiological component as opposed to a more detailed hydrogeological characterization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW06401
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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