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22-3. Advancing representation of groundwater surface water interaction in regional and national hydrologic models

A critical gap in national scale hydrologic modeling efforts is the inability to integrate the surface water stream network with subsurface hydrogeology and groundwater transport. We seek a Mendenhall to investigate improving hydrologic models by coupling groundwater and surface water capabilities through a variety of different modeling approaches in selected basins or at a national scale.

Description of the Research Opportunity

To face growing demand on the Nation’s water resources, the USGS Water Mission Area (WMA) must continue to develop the capacity to accurately predict water availability through integrated models of the complete hydrologic cycle. Integrated models allow for more comprehensive study of the interrelated factors controlling water availability, allow for relating water quantity with water quality and ecosystem health, and will enable the creation of actionable intelligence for USGS stakeholders. The WMA will provide the foundational architecture to support the development of a federated, integrated water modeling resource. This architecture framework will also enable other Mission Areas, federal agencies, and partners to more seamlessly access, utilize, and integrate WMA science, models, and code bases into their activities.  

Integrating the surface water stream network with subsurface hydrogeology and groundwater transport typically involves coupling models of land surface hydrologic processes (such as PRMS, Noah-MP, CLM/CTSM) with models that can resolve groundwater transport and flow paths (like MODFLOW or Parflow). The ability to flexibly couple and configure models and their components at the process-level is a significant facet of this problem, which the WMA’s Integrated Water Prediction program is addressing by developing an enterprise modeling architecture that is modular, interoperable, extensible, portable, and scalable from personal computers to high-performance and high throughput computing and the cloud. Utilizing this modeling architecture, and supporting tools for model setup and analysis, scientists can rapidly design and execute computational experiments to investigate coupled system behaviors such as groundwater surface water interactions across a range of spatial and temporal scales. 

Key questions driving the research include:

  • How does representation of groundwater processes in land surface models impact the resulting water budget estimations and streamflow predictions?
  • What is the impact of various model coupling strategies on the ability to resolve interactions between groundwater and surface water?

Proposed research will demonstrate progress towards these and other critical questions regarding groundwater and surface water interactions in land surface models.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Possible Duty Station(s)

Location negotiable


Areas of PhD

Hydrology, atmospheric sciences, geology, Earth sciences or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).



Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications:  Research Hydrologist, Research Physical Scientist, Research Computer Scientist.

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)