Discontinuous Steady-State Analytical Solutions of the Boussinesq Equation and Their Numerical Representation by Modflow



Known analytical solutions of groundwater flow equations are routinely used for verification of computer codes. However, these analytical solutions (e.g., the Dupuit solution for the steady-state unconfined unidirectional flow in a uniform aquifer with a flat bottom) represent smooth and continuous water table configurations, simulating which does not pose any significant problems for the numerical groundwater flow models, like MODFLOW. One of the most challenging numerical cases for MODFLOW arises from drying-rewetting problems often associated with abrupt changes in the elevations of impervious base of a thin unconfined aquifer. Numerical solutions of groundwater flow equations cannot be rigorously verified for such cases due to the lack of corresponding exact analytical solutions. Analytical solutions of the steady-state Boussinesq equation, associated with the discontinuous water table configurations over a stairway impervious base, are presented in this article. Conditions resulting in such configurations are analyzed and discussed. These solutions appear to be well suited for testing and verification of computer codes. Numerical solutions, obtained by the latest versions of MODFLOW (MODFLOW-2005 and MODFLOW-NWT), are compared with the presented discontinuous analytical solutions. It is shown that standard MODFLOW-2005 code (as well as MODFLOW-2000 and older versions) has significant convergence problems simulating such cases. The problems manifest themselves either in a total convergence failure or erroneous results. Alternatively, MODFLOW-NWT, providing a good match to the presented discontinuous analytical solutions, appears to be a more reliable and appropriate code for simulating abrupt changes in water table elevations.