Groundwater Flow Modeling - Idaho National Laboratory

Science Center Objects

Numerical models are being used to better understand the flow of groundwater and the transport of radiochemical and chemical constituents in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer system.

The models, developed at the INL, afford scientists a framework to organize their knowledge and concepts of groundwater systems and to provide insights for water-resource managers for future water demands and contaminant movement in the aquifer at the INL.


In 2010, our project office developed 3D steady-state and transient flow models that can be used to show how human- and natural climate-induced stresses affect groundwater storage, flow direction, and the velocity of water movement.

In 2012, we compared the steady-state model's estimates of groundwater source areas and velocities to independently derived estimates. We've learned that our model is most accurate where the aquifer's geology includes large sediment beds.

Our scientists continue to collect new observations about the depth to groundwater, the groundwater flow deeper in the aquifer, and the aquifer’s geology. Adding these new data sets will improve model predictions for tracking contaminant movement and forecasting groundwater availability.

What's the difference between "steady-state" and "transient" models?

The steady-state model assumes inflows into the aquifer equal outflows, and there are no time-dependent changes in aquifer storage or changes in the direction and velocity of water movement.

The transient model allows water inflows and outflows to vary in response to short-and long-term changes in climate or water-use patterns resulting in an increase or decrease in aquifer storage and changes in the direction and velocity of groundwater flow.