Comparison of two modeling approaches for groundwater–surface water interactions



An assessment of interactions between groundwater and surface water was carried out by applying two different modeling approaches to a small-scale study area in the municipality of Havelock, Quebec. The first approach involved a commonly used sequential procedure that consists in determining the daily recharge rate using a quasi 2D infiltration model (HELP), applied in the next step as an imposed flux to a 3D finite-element groundwater flow model. The flow model was calibrated under steady-state and transient conditions against measured water levels. The second approach was based on a recently developed physically based, 3D fully coupled groundwater–surface water flow model (CATHY) applied to the entire flow domain in an integrated manner. Implementation, calibration, and results of the simulations for both approaches are presented and discussed. For equal annual precipitation (1038 mm/y) and evapotranspiration (556 mm/y), the second approach computed a recharge rate of 233 mm/y (8.9% higher than the first approach) and a net upward flow from the fractured aquifer (the first approach predicted a net downward flow to the rock). The simulated annual discharge was similar for the two approaches (9.6% difference). Both approaches were found to be useful in understanding the interactions between groundwater and surface water, although limitations are apparent in the sequential procedure's inability to account for surface–subsurface feedbacks, for instance near stream reaches where groundwater discharge is prevalent. The decoupled, two-model approach provides disaggregated surface, vadose, and aquifer flows, and a simple aperçu at the different components of total discharge. The fully coupled model accounts for continuous water exchanges between the land surface, subsurface, and stream channel in a more complex manner, and produces a better match against observed data. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.