Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

A Probabilistic Framework for the Assessment of Environmental Effects in Groundwater Contaminant Hydrology

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  • Abstract 

    Professional scientists and engineers are often tasked to predict the environmental impact of human activities by combining the understanding of complex physical systems with advanced analytical and numerical tools. At the same time, uncertainty has always been a critical aspect of most engineering projects. In this paper, we present a simple probabilistic framework that incorporates model parameter uncertainty and translates the results to predictive uncertainty, as required for riskbased decision making. The framework is applied to three relatively simple, yet well understood groundwater contaminant transport problems adapted from real-world case examples. We use well-known analytical solutions documented in most contaminant hydrogeology textbooks, coded using freely available tools. The presented examples provide a useful illustration of the general methodology that should be applied, irrespective of problem type, when data uncertainty needs to be accounted for in design and decision-making. We have found the framework to be well understood by water resource managers and well received by decision-makers. 

    Keywords: Groundwater modelling, Contaminant transport, Environmental engineering, Model Uncertainty, Stochastic Modelling, Decision Support, Risk Based Modelling