An optimal experimental design algorithm is developed to select locations for a network of observation wells that provide maximum information about unknown groundwater pumping in a confined, anisotropic aquifer. The design uses a maximal information criterion that chooses, among competing designs, the design that maximizes the sum of squared sensitivities while conforming to specified design constraints. The formulated optimization problem is non-convex and contains integer variables necessitating a combinatorial search. Given a realistic large-scale model, the size of the combinatorial search required can make the problem difficult, if not impossible, to solve using traditional mathematical programming techniques. Genetic algorithms (GAs) can be used to perform the global search; however, because a GA requires a large number of calls to a groundwater model, the formulated optimization problem still may be infeasible to solve. As a result, proper orthogonal decomposition (POD) is applied to the groundwater model to reduce its dimensionality. Then, the information matrix in the full model space can be searched without solving the full model. Results from a small-scale test case show identical optimal solutions among the GA, integer programming, and exhaustive search methods. This demonstrates the GA's ability to determine the optimal solution. In addition, the results show that a GA with POD model reduction is several orders of magnitude faster in finding the optimal solution than a GA using the full model. The proposed experimental design algorithm is applied to a realistic, two-dimensional, large-scale groundwater problem. The GA converged to a solution for this large-scale problem.
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