Approaches to the Simulation of Unconfined Flow and Perched Groundwater Flow in MODFLOW


S. S. Papadopulos and Associates, 7944 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 718-8900;


Various approaches have been proposed to manage the nonlinearities associated with the unconfined flow equation and to simulate perched groundwater conditions using the MODFLOW family of codes. The approaches comprise a variety of numerical techniques to prevent dry cells from becoming inactive and to achieve a stable solution focused on formulations of the unconfined, partially-saturated, groundwater flow equation. Keeping dry cells active avoids a discontinuous head solution which in turn improves the effectiveness of parameter estimation software that relies on continuous derivatives. Most approaches implement an upstream weighting of intercell conductance and Newton-Raphson linearization to obtain robust convergence. In this study, several published approaches were implemented in a stepwise manner into MODFLOW for comparative analysis. First, a comparative analysis of the methods is presented using synthetic examples that create convergence issues or difficulty in handling perched conditions with the more common dry-cell simulation capabilities of MODFLOW. Next, a field-scale three-dimensional simulation is presented to examine the stability and performance of the discussed approaches in larger, practical, simulation settings.