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An integrated mechanistic modeling of a facultative pond: Parameter estimation and uncertainty analysis

Ho, Long T., Alvarado, Andres, Larriva, Josue, Pompeu, Cassia, Goethals, Peter
Water research 2019 v.151 pp. 170-182
algae, altitude, ammonia, autotrophic bacteria, climatic factors, data collection, denitrification, denitrifying bacteria, diffusivity, heterotrophs, hydrolysis, lakes, mechanistic models, microbial growth, phosphates, uncertainty, uncertainty analysis, volatilization, water temperature, Ecuador
Imitating natural lakes, pond treatment systems inherit a high complexity with interconnected web of biochemical reactions and complex hydraulic processes. As such, its simulation requires a large and integrated model, which has been a challenge for pond engineers. In this study, we develop an all-encompassing model to gain a quantitative and comprehensive understanding of the hydraulic, physicochemical and microbiological conversion processes in the most common pond, a facultative pond. Moreover, to deal with an evitable issue of large mechanistic models as overparameterization leading to poor identifiability, a systematic parameter estimation was implemented. The application of sensitivity analysis reveals the most influential parameters on pond performance. Particularly, physical parameters, such as vertical eddy diffusivity, water temperature, and maximum growth rate of heterotrophs induce the most changes of organic matters while microbial assimilation and ammonia volatilization appear to be main processes for nutrient removal. In contrast, the efficiency of phosphate precipitation and nutrient biological removal via polyphosphate accumulating organisms and denitrifying bacteria is limited. Identifiability problems are addressed mainly by the characterization of light dependence of algal growth, interaction between water temperature and its coefficient, and the growth of autotrophic bacteria while based on the determinant measures, the most important parameter subsets affecting model outputs are related to physical processes and algal activity. After the establishment of the influential and identifiable parameter subset, an automatic calibration with the data collected from Ucubamba pond system (Ecuador) demonstrates the effect of high-altitude climatic conditions on pond behaviors. An aerobic prevailing condition is observed as a result of high light intensity causing accelerated algal activities, hence, leading to the limitation of hydrolysis, anaerobic processes, and the growth of anoxic heterotrophs for denitrification. Furthermore, the output of uncertainty analysis indicates that a large avoidable uncertainty as a result of vast complexity of the applied model can be reduced greatly via a systematic approach for parameter estimation.