Development of a cross-section based streamflow routing package for MODFLOW

Gengxin Ou, Xunhong Chen, Ayse Kilic, Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, Yusong Li, Ashok Samal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


It is challenging to simulate stream-aquifer interactions for the wide channel streams with the existing stream routing packages of MODFLOW. To overcome this limitation, a Cross-Section streamflow Routing (CSR) package is developed to simulate the streamflow and the interaction between streams and aquifers for the stream with a width larger than the MODFLOW grid size. In the CSR package, streams are divided into stream segments which are formed by two consecutive cross-sections. A cross-section is described by a number of streambed points that determine the geometry and hydraulic properties of the streambed. The stream water depth and streamflow at the cross-sections are related by the Single Channel method, the Divided Channel method, a data table or a power function. A rapid algorithm is used to compute the submerged area of the MODFLOW grid. The streambed conductance of a grid cell is computed based on its submerged area, streambed hydraulic conductivity and thickness. Stream-aquifer seepage is subsequently estimated as the product of the streambed conductance and difference between the stream stage and groundwater hydraulic head. Stream-aquifer seepage is treated as lateral flow in the streamflow routing computation with the Muskingum-Cunge method or mass conservation method. A hypothetical problem is established to test the capabilities of the CSR package with steady- and transient-state models. The results compare favorably with the SFR2 package and the HEC-RAS model. However, significant difference in flood wave attenuation is observed between the CSR package and the SFR2 package. It proves that the CSR package is capable of simulating the variation of stream-aquifer interactions in both space and time efficiently. The CSR package represents a certain improvement over previous MODFLOW streamflow packages by providing the efficient cross-section based computation and the unique capability of simulating streambed heterogeneity in longitudinal and transverse directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-143
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • MODFLOW stream packages
  • Stream-aquifer interaction
  • Streambed heterogeneity
  • Streamflow routing
  • Wide channel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling


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