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Simultaneous identification of a contaminant source and hydraulic conductivity via the restart normal-score ensemble Kalman filter

Xu, Teng, Gómez-Hernández, J. Jaime
Advances in water resources 2018 v.112 pp. 106-123
aquifers, hydraulic conductivity, uncertainty, wells
Detecting where and when a contaminant entered an aquifer from observations downgradient of the source is a difficult task; this identification becomes more challenging when the uncertainty about the spatial distribution of hydraulic conductivity is accounted for. In this paper, we have implemented an application of the restart normal-score ensemble Kalman filter (NS-EnKF) for the simultaneous identification of a contaminant source and the spatially variable hydraulic conductivity in an aquifer. The method is capable of providing estimates of the spatial location, initial release time, the duration of the release and the mass load of a point-contamination event, plus the spatial distribution of hydraulic conductivity together with an assessment of the estimation uncertainty of all the parameters. The method has been applied in synthetic aquifers exhibiting both Gaussian and non-Gaussian patterns. The identification is made possible by assimilating in time both piezometric head and concentration observations from an array of observation wells. The method is demonstrated in three different synthetic scenarios that combine hydraulic conductivities with unimodal and bimodal histograms, and releases in high and low conductivity zones. The results prove that the specific implementation of the EnKF is capable of recovering the source parameters with some uncertainty and of recovering the main patterns of heterogeneity of the hydraulic conductivity fields by assimilating a sufficient number of state variable observations. The proposed approach is an important step towards contaminant source identification in real aquifers, which may have logconductivity spatial distributions with either Gaussian or non-Gaussian features, yet, it is still far from practical applications since the transport parameters, the external sinks and sources and the initial and boundary conditions are assumed known.