Application of Bayesian geostatistics for evaluation of mass discharge uncertainty at contaminated sites

Mads Troldborg, Wolfgang Nowak, Ida Vedel Lange, Marta Cecilia Pompeia Ramos dos Santos, Philip John Binning, Poul Løgstrup Bjerg

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Mass discharge estimates are increasingly being used when assessing risks of groundwater contamination and designing remedial systems at contaminated sites. Such estimates are, however, rather uncertain as they integrate uncertain spatial distributions of both concentration and groundwater flow. Here a geostatistical simulation method for quantifying the uncertainty of the mass discharge across a multilevel control plane is presented. The method accounts for (1) heterogeneity of both the flow field and the concentration distribution through Bayesian geostatistics, (2) measurement uncertainty, and (3) uncertain source zone and transport parameters. The method generates conditional realizations of the spatial flow and concentration distribution. An analytical macrodispersive transport solution is employed to simulate the mean concentration distribution, and a geostatistical model of the Box-Cox transformed concentration data is used to simulate observed deviations from this mean solution. By combining the flow and concentration realizations, a mass discharge probability distribution is obtained. The method has the advantage of avoiding the heavy computational burden of three-dimensional numerical flow and transport simulation coupled with geostatistical inversion. It may therefore be of practical relevance to practitioners compared to existing methods that are either too simple or computationally demanding. The method is demonstrated on a field site contaminated with chlorinated ethenes. For this site, we show that including a physically meaningful concentration trend and the cosimulation of hydraulic conductivity and hydraulic gradient across the transect helps constrain the mass discharge uncertainty. The number of sampling points required for accurate mass discharge estimation and the relative influence of different data types on mass discharge uncertainty is discussed. © 2012. American Geophysical Union.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)W09535
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Groundwater
  • Groundwater flow
  • Microchannels
  • Numerical methods
  • Probability distributions
  • Three dimensional computer graphics
  • Uncertainty analysis
  • Discharge (fluid mechanics)

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