Providing Accessibility and Usability of MODFLOW Models for Water Managers

Monday, December 4, 2017: 1:30 p.m.
James Schneider, Ph.D. , Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE
Brian Dunnigan, PE , Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE
Colby Osborn , Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE
Mallory Morton , Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE

Graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for the construction and calibration of a groundwater model are widely available and tailored to be easily understood by trained hydrogeologists. However, with limited, highly specific examples, these models are not delivered to the water manager with a related GUI that would allow for the full integration of the model into water management activities. Rather, models have traditionally been developed and used to conduct a single set of model scenarios that are the basis for a report that the water manager receives - this report is destined to gather dust on a shelf. We envision a paradigm shift in the way groundwater models are used to manage water. Models can and should be delivered with an easy-to-use GUI that can be used many times over to keep the model up-to-date and can run as many hypothetical scenarios as the water manager can dream up.

There are two fundamental requirements for this approach: 1) an intimate understanding of the water manager’s objectives for constructing the model, and 2) a very detailed understanding of the format of specific MODFLOW packages that may be incorporated into the model, and the ability to produce computer code that will manipulate the data in these packages. This is in addition to the traditional components that generally include the ability to construct and calibrate a groundwater model that is scientifically defensible.

This presentation will explore several projects that we have completed in Nebraska that have put water managers in the “decision making” driver’s seat. It has also empowered them with a tool that can keep their models current. They are now able to answer management questions in real-time in their own office faster and more efficiently than if they employed the hydrogeologists necessary to otherwise conduct these evaluations.

James Schneider, Ph.D., Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE
Jim Schneider is a former Deputy Director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources. While with the department, he advised and assisted the director in department management and in formulating state water policies. Jim also served as an expert witness on the U.S. Supreme Court litigation in Kansas v. Nebraska & Colorado regarding the Republican River Basin, which was resolved in 2015. In his current role with Olsson Associates, Jim conducts and manages a wide variety of water management studies. He has a B.S. and M.S. in Geology from Northern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of South Florida.


Brian Dunnigan, PE, Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE
Brian joined Olsson Associates in 2014 after serving as the Director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources for 6 years. He is a licensed professional engineer with a bachelor of science in civil engineer from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He currently leads Olsson Associates' Water Resources teams in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. He has over 35 years of experience in water resources management.


Colby Osborn, Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE
Colby Osborn received a B.S. in geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2014. He recently joined Olsson Associates after working with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources where he gained technical skills and water resources management policy knowledge. At Olsson, Colby predominantly works on developing groundwater models and specialized hydrologic analyses. He has experience with MODFLOW, scientific programming, largescale data processing, GIS, and technical report preparation.


Mallory Morton, Olsson Associates, Lincoln, NE
Mallory joined the Olsson Associates Water Resources team in 2015 as a student intern and was promoted to Assistant Engineer after graduating with a B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering in December of 2015. At Olsson she works on a variety of water resources projects including groundwater model development, reservoir site evaluations, and other surface and groundwater related projects.


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