Simulation of nonpoint source contamination based on adaptive mesh refinement

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Georgios Kourakos and Thomas Harter, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, United States
Contamination of groundwater aquifers from nonpoint sources is a worldwide problem. Typical agricultural groundwater basins receive contamination from a large array (in the order of ~10^5-6) of spatially and temporally heterogeneous sources such as fields, crops, dairies etc, while the received contaminants emerge at significantly uncertain time lags to a large array of discharge surfaces such as public supply, domestic and irrigation wells and streams. To support decision making in such complex regimes several approaches have been developed, which can be grouped into 3 categories: i) Index methods, ii)regression methods and iii) physically based methods. Among the three, physically based methods are considered more accurate, but at the cost of computational demand. In this work we present a physically based simulation framework which exploits the latest hardware and software developments to simulate large (>>1,000 km2) groundwater basins. First we simulate groundwater flow using a sufficiently detailed mesh to capture the spatial heterogeneity. To achieve optimal mesh quality we combine adaptive mesh refinement with the nonlinear solution for unconfined flow. Starting from a coarse grid the mesh is refined iteratively in the parts of the domain where the flow heterogeneity appears higher resulting in optimal grid. Secondly we simulate the nonpoint source pollution based on the detailed velocity field computed from the previous step. In our approach we use the streamline model where the 3D transport problem is decomposed into multiple 1D transport problems. The proposed framework is applied to simulate nonpoint source pollution in the Central Valley aquifer system, California.