Estimation of historical groundwater contaminant distribution using the adjoint state method applied to geostatistical inverse modeling



[1] As the incidence of groundwater contamination continues to grow, a number of inverse modeling methods have been developed to address forensic groundwater problems. In this work the geostatistical approach to inverse modeling is extended to allow for the recovery of the antecedent distribution of a contaminant at a given point back in time, which is critical to the assessment of historical exposure to contamination. Such problems are typically strongly underdetermined, with a large number of points at which the distribution is to be estimated. To address this challenge, the computational efficiency of the new method is increased through the application of the adjoint state method. In addition, the adjoint problem is presented in a format that allows for the reuse of existing groundwater flow and transport codes as modules in the inverse modeling algorithm. As demonstrated in the presented applications, the geostatistical approach combined with the adjoint state method allow for a historical multidimensional contaminant distribution to be recovered even in heterogeneous media, where a numerical solution is required for the forward problem.