ASTM D5981 - 96(2008)

    Standard Guide for Calibrating a Groundwater Flow Model Application

    Active Standard ASTM D5981 | Developed by Subcommittee: D18.21

    Book of Standards Volume: 04.09


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    Significance and Use

    Most site-specific groundwater flow models must be calibrated prior to use in predictions. In these cases, calibration is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition which must be obtained to have confidence in the model's predictions.

    Often, during calibration, it becomes apparent that there are no realistic values of the hydraulic properties of the soil or rock which will allow the model to reproduce the calibration targets. In these cases the conceptual model of the site may need to be revisited or the construction of the model may need to be revised. In addition, the source and quality of the data used to establish the calibration targets may need to be reexamined. For example, the modeling process can sometimes identify a previously undetected surveying error, which would results in inaccurate hydraulic head targets.

    This guide is not meant to be an inflexible description of techniques for calibrating a groundwater flow model; other techniques may be applied as appropriate and, after due consideration, some of the techniques herein may be omitted, altered, or enhanced.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This guide covers techniques that can be used to calibrate a groundwater flow model. The calibration of a model is the process of matching historical data, and is usually a prerequisite for making predictions with the model.

    1.2 Calibration is one of the stages of applying a groundwater modeling code to a site-specific problem (see Guide D5447). Calibration is the process of refining the model representation of the hydrogeologic framework, hydraulic properties, and boundary conditions to achieve a desired degree of correspondence between the model simulations and observations of the groundwater flow system.

    1.3 Flow models are usually calibrated using either the manual (trial-and-error) method or an automated (inverse) method. This guide presents some techniques for calibrating a flow model using either method.

    1.4 This guide is written for calibrating saturated porous medium (continuum) groundwater flow models. However, these techniques, suitably modified, could be applied to other types of related groundwater models, such as multi-phase models, non-continuum (karst or fracture flow) models, or mass transport models.

    1.5 Guide D5447 presents the steps to be taken in applying a groundwater modeling code to a site-specific problem. Calibration is one of those steps. Other standards have been prepared on environmental modeling, such as Guides D5490, D5609, D5610, D5611, D5718, and Practice E978.

    1.6 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

    1.7 This guide offers an organized collection of information or a series of options and does not recommend a specific course of action. This document cannot replace education or experience and should be used in conjunction with professional judgment. Not all aspects of this guide may be applicable in all circumstances. This ASTM standard is not intended to represent or replace the standard of care by which the adequacy of a given professional service must be judged, nor should this document be applied without consideration of a project's many unique aspects. The word Standard in the title of this document means only that the document has been approved through the ASTM consensus process.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    D653 Terminology Relating to Soil, Rock, and Contained Fluids

    D5447 Guide for Application of a Groundwater Flow Model to a Site-Specific Problem

    D5490 Guide for Comparing Ground-Water Flow Model Simulations to Site-Specific Information

    D5609 Guide for Defining Boundary Conditions in Groundwater Flow Modeling

    D5610 Guide for Defining Initial Conditions in Groundwater Flow Modeling

    D5611 Guide for Conducting a Sensitivity Analysis for a Ground-Water Flow Model Application

    D5718 Guide for Documenting a Groundwater Flow Model Application

    E978 Practice for Evaluating Mathematical Models for the Environmental Fate of Chemicals


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 13.060.10 (Water of natural resources)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code


    Referencing This Standard

    DOI: 10.1520/D5981-96R08

    ASTM International is a member of CrossRef.

    Citation Format

    ASTM D5981-96(2008), Standard Guide for Calibrating a Groundwater Flow Model Application, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2008, www.astm.org

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