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Techniques and Methods 6-A42

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy

Advective Transport Observations with MODPATH-OBS–Documentation of the MODPATH Observation Process

By R.T. Hanson, L.K. Kauffman, M.C. Hill, J.E. Dickinson, and S.W. Mehl

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.7 MB)Abstract

The MODPATH-OBS computer program described in this report is designed to calculate simulated equivalents for observations related to advective groundwater transport that can be represented in a quantitative way by using simulated particle-tracking data. The simulated equivalents supported by MODPATH-OBS are (1) distance from a source location at a defined time, or proximity to an observed location; (2) time of travel from an initial location to defined locations, areas, or volumes of the simulated system; (3) concentrations used to simulate groundwater age; and (4) percentages of water derived from contributing source areas. Although particle tracking only simulates the advective component of conservative transport, effects of non-conservative processes such as retardation can be approximated through manipulation of the effective-porosity value used to calculate velocity based on the properties of selected conservative tracers. This program can also account for simple decay or production, but it cannot account for diffusion. Dispersion can be represented through direct simulation of subsurface heterogeneity and the use of many particles.

MODPATH-OBS acts as a postprocessor to MODPATH, so that the sequence of model runs generally required is MODFLOW, MODPATH, and MODPATH-OBS. The version of MODFLOW and MODPATH that support the version of MODPATH-OBS presented in this report are MODFLOW-2005 or MODFLOW-LGR, and MODPATH-LGR. MODFLOW-LGR is derived from MODFLOW-2005, MODPATH 5, and MODPATH 6 and supports local grid refinement. MODPATH-LGR is derived from MODPATH 5. It supports the forward and backward tracking of particles through locally refined grids and provides the output needed for MODPATH_OBS. For a single grid and no observations, MODPATH-LGR results are equivalent to MODPATH 5. MODPATH-LGR and MODPATH-OBS simulations can use nearly all of the capabilities of MODFLOW-2005 and MODFLOW-LGR; for example, simulations may be steady-state, transient, or a combination. Though the program name MODPATH-OBS specifically refers to observations, the program also can be used to calculate model prediction of observations.

MODPATH-OBS is primarily intended for use with separate programs that conduct sensitivity analysis, data needs assessment, parameter estimation, and uncertainty analysis, such as UCODE_2005, and PEST.

In many circumstances, refined grids in selected parts of a model are important to simulated hydraulics, detailed inflows and outflows, or other system characteristics. MODFLOW-LGR and MODPATH-LGR support accurate local grid refinement in which both mass (flows) and energy (head) are conserved across the local grid boundary. MODPATH-OBS is designed to take advantage of these capabilities. For example, particles tracked between a pumping well and a nearby stream, which are simulated poorly if a river and well are located in a single large grid cell, can be simulated with improved accuracy using a locally refined grid in MODFLOW-LGR, MODPATH-LGR, and MODPATH-OBS. The locally-refined-grid approach can provide more accurate simulated equivalents to observed transport between the well and the river.

The documentation presented here includes a brief discussion of previous work, description of the methods, and detailed descriptions of the required input files and how the output files are typically used.

First posted July 2, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, California Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6000 J Street, Placer Hall
Sacramento, California 95819

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Hanson, R.T., Kauffman, L.K., Hill, M.C., Dickinson, J.E., and Mehl, S.W., 2013, Advective transport observations with MODPATH-OBS—Documentation of the MODPATH observation process: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods book 6–chap. A42, 94 p.





Relating Simulated Advective Transport to Field Conditions

MODPATH-OBS and Model Analysis

Calculation Methods

Common Calibration Problems

Linkage Between Programs


Hypothetical Example Problem


References Cited

Appendix A. Input Instructions

Appendix B. Selected Input and Output Files for Hypothetical Example

Appendix C. Program Distribution and Installation

Appendix D. Add Volume: A Utility Program to Assign Volume to Particles

Appendix E. ModpathParameters: A Utility Program to Assign Porosity Parameters Using
Zone and Multiplier Arrays from MODFLOW



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