Multiple-point statistical modeling of three-dimensional glacial aquifer heterogeneity for improved groundwater management

Nafyad Serre Kawo, Jesse Korus, Mats Lundh Gulbrandsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Quaternary glacial aquifers are important water sources for irrigation in many agricultural regions, including eastern Nebraska, USA. Quaternary glacial aquifers are heterogeneous, with juxtaposed low-permeability and high-permeability hydrofacies. Managing groundwater in such aquifers requires a realistic groundwater-flow model parameterization, and characterization of the aquifer geometry, spatial distribution of aquifer properties, and local aquifer interconnectedness. Despite its importance in considering uncertainty during decision-making, hydrofacies probabilities generated from multiple-point statistics (MPS) are not widely applied for groundwater model parameterization and groundwater management zone delineation. This study used a combination of soft data, a cognitive training image, and hard data to generate 100 three-dimensional (3D) conditional aquifer heterogeneity realizations. The most probable model (probability of hydrofacies) was then computed at node spacing of 200 × 200 × 3 m and validated using groundwater-level hydrographs. The resulting hydrofacies probability grids revealed variations in aquifer geometry, locally disconnected aquifer systems, recharge pathways, and hydrologic barriers. The profiles from hydrofacies probability at various locations show spatial variability of the streambed and aquifer connectivity. Groundwater-level hydrographs show evidence of these aquifer characteristics, verifying the general structure of the model. Using the MPS-generated 3D hydrofacies probability and hydrologic data, a novel workflow was developed in order to better define high-resolution groundwater management zones and strategies. In general, the conditional probability of hydrofacies helps improve the understanding of glacial aquifer heterogeneity, the characterization of aquifer-to-aquifer and streambed-aquifer connections, and the delineation of groundwater management zones. This MPS workflow can be adapted to other areas for modeling 3D aquifer heterogeneity using multisource data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1525-1546
Number of pages22
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Airborne electromagnetics
  • Geostatistics
  • Glacial aquifers
  • Heterogeneity
  • Hydrofacies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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