A comparison of seven geostatistically based inverse approaches to estimate transmissivities for modeling advective transport by groundwater flow

D. A. Zimmerman, G. De Marsily, C. A. Gotway, M. G. Marietta, C. L. Axness, R. L. Beauheim, R. L. Bras, J. Carrera, G. Dagan, P. B. Davies, D. P. Gallegos, A. Galli, J. Gómez-Hernández, P. Grindrod, A. L. Gutjahr, P. K. Kitanidis, A. M. Lavenue, D. McLaughlin, S. P. Neuman, B. S. RamaRaoC. Ravenne, Y. Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

261 Scopus citations


This paper describes the first major attempt to compare seven different inverse approaches for identifying aquifer transmissivity. The ultimate objective was to determine which of several geostatistical inverse techniques is better suited for making probabilistic forecasts of the potential transport of solutes in an aquifer where spatial variability and uncertainty in hydrogeologic properties are significant. Seven geostatistical methods (fast Fourier transform (FF), fractal simulation (FS), linearized cokriging (LC), linearized semianalytical (LS), maximum likelihood (ML), pilot point (PP), and sequential self-calibration (SS)) were compared on four synthetic data sets. Each data set had specific features meeting (or not) classical assumptions about stationarity, amenability to a geostatistical description, etc. The comparison of the outcome of the methods is based on the prediction of travel times and travel paths taken by conservative solutes migrating in the aquifer for a distance of 5 km. Four of the methods, LS, ML, PP, and SS, were identified as being approximately equivalent for the specific problems considered. The magnitude of the variance of the transmissivity fields, which went as high as 10 times the generally accepted range for linearized approaches, was not a problem for the linearized methods when applied to stationary fields; that is, their inverse solutions and travel time predictions were as accurate as those of the nonlinear methods. Nonstationarity of the 'true' transmissivity field, or the presence of 'anomalies' such as high-permeability fracture zones was, however, more of a problem for the linearized methods. The importance of the proper selection of the semivariogram of the log10 (T) field (or the ability of the method to optimize this variogram iteratively) was found to have a significant impact on the accuracy and precision of the travel time predictions. Use of additional transient information from pumping tests did not result in major changes in the outcome. While the methods differ in their underlying theory, and the codes developed to implement the theories were limited to varying degrees, the most important factor for achieving a successful solution was the time and experience devoted by the user of the method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1373-1413
Number of pages41
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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