Sensitivity Analysis of a Ground-Water-Flow Model

by Lynn J. Torak, U.S. Geological Survey, Doraville, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Symposium on Ground Water


A sensitivity analysis was performed on 18 hydrological factors affecting steady-state groundwater flow in the Upper Floridan aquifer near Albany, southwestern Georgia. Computations were based on a calibrated, two-dimensional, finite-element digital model of the stream-aquifer system and the corresponding data inputs. Flow-system sensitivity was analyzed by computing water-level residuals obtained from simulations involving individual changes to each hydrological factor. Hydrological factors to which computed water levels were most sensitive were those that produced the largest change in the sum-of-squares of residuals for the smallest change in factor value. Plots of the sum-of-squares of residuals against multiplier or additive values that effect change in the hydrological factors are used to evaluate the influence of each factor on the simulated flow system. The shapes of these 'sensitivity curves' indicate the importance of each hydrological factor to the flow system. Because the sensitivity analysis can be performed during the preliminary phase of a water-resource investigation, it can be used to identify the types of hydrological data required to accurately characterize the flow system prior to collecting additional data or making management decisions.

Subject Headings: Sensitivity analysis | Hydrologic data | Groundwater flow | Hydrologic models | Computer models | Two-dimensional models | Water level | Mathematical models | United States | New York | Georgia

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