2023-2024 / GEOL0083-3

Groundwater modelling


30h Th, 30h Labo., 30h Proj.

Number of credits

 Master of Science (MSc) in Geological and Mining Engineering5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Geological and Mining Engineering (joint-degree programme with the "Université polytechnique de Madrid")5 crédits 


Alain Dassargues

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The main principles and methods applied for groundwater flow and solute transport modelling are described.
The following topics are addressed :
- building a conceptual model and choosing the adequate assumptions and boundary conditions
- a short reminder about the general equation of the groundwater flow in porous media in steady-state and transient conditions;
- a short reminder about solute transport equation involving advection, diffusion, dispersion, adsorption/desorption, degradation, immobile water effect, physicochemical reactions;
- groundwater flow and solute transport in variably saturated geological media;
- methodology in groundwater modelling;
- representation, idealization, and discretization of the porous and fissured media;
- use of the various numerical techniques: advantages/disadvantages for the user, adequacy of the technique, resolution of the transport equations by various digital Eulerian and Eulerian-Lagrangian techniques, problems of numerical instabilities and dispersion;
- development of a conceptual model and discussion of the boundary conditions;
- calibration procedures, inverse modelling and sensitivity analysis for local and regional models;
- influence of interactions between parameters, non-linearities and coupling
Study cases.
Applications to actual situations by using various methods of resolution.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

At the end of the course, the student will have a strong basic skill in groundwater modelling. He will be able to:
- make adequate conceptual choices in the function of the problem to be simulated;
- collect and organise the needed data for a groundwater model;
- choose the best boundary conditions not biasing model results;
- use the GMS code with MODFLOW, MODPATH and MT3D embedded, for modelling an actual case study;
- calibrate a groundwater flow model in steady-state and transient conditions, on historical data;
- calibrate a solute contaminant transport model, on measured breakthrough curves;
- simulate predictive scenarios on actual case studies of groundwater flow and contaminant transport;
- interpret model results with regards to uncertainties in the data and in the conceptual choices.
Exercise sessions will be entirely devoted to one real study case on which all the modelling steps will be performed by each student. These sessions are led by an assistant. He will help each student to develop his self-sufficient capacities in this practical and real case study.
The not compulsory reading of reference books (in English) will allow additional documentation and understanding of scientific texts on this topic.

This knowledge, indeed, is extremely appreciated by decision-makers, administrations, Ministries, water companies, and semi-public and engineering departments related to the environment. Predictive calculations related to groundwater are of great importance in quantitative and qualitative management of the local and regional groundwater resources, in engineering geology problems, for waste disposal impact studies, contaminated site cleaning, etc.


This course contributes to the learning outcomes I.1, I.2, I.3, II.1, II.3, III.1, III.2, IV.1, IV.3, IV.5, VI.2, VI.3, VI.4, VII.2, VII.3, VII.4 of the MSc in Geological and Mining engineering.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

A strong course on Hydrogeology (like Geol0013-5) should be attended the same semester (if not previously).

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

The course is composed of "ex-cathedra" lectures and directed practical sessions.
The exercise sessions are entirely devoted to a real groundwater contamination case on which all the modeling steps will be performed by each student. In the last session, after writing an individual report, the students will compare their respective conceptual choices, methods, and results. The discussion will be led by the lecturer and the assistant. This will allow each student for a clear debriefing of his work and analyzing results in function of the uncertainties from the conceptual choices, calibration, and incomplete data sets.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)


Recommended or required readings

A pdf copy of all slides is made available in FR and in EN on eCampus.This is only a summary of what was said and shown during the lectures.
It is useful and highly advised to consult the following reference book: - Dassargues, A. 2018. Hydrogeology: groundwater science and engineering. Taylor & Francis CRC Press, 472p.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

Written work / report

Additional information:

The evaluation of the report provides 50% of the global mark.
The oral exam consists of a discussion of the report results. All theoretical and practical aspects can be discussed. It is a fully professional situation where a groundwater modeler must present his results to a specialized audience. Good knowledge and a perfect command of the fundamentals from all concerned courses are needed for preparing accurate and adequate answers.

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

The course will be given during the 1st semester: Wednesday am. The schedule and the place of the course should be checked on CELCAT.
Attention: the classrooms have been chosen in such a way that all registered students can attend physically the course.


Professor: Alain Dassargues 04/3662376 Alain.Dassargues@uliege.be Assistant: Philippe Orban : 043662359 p.orban@uliege.be

Association of one or more MOOCs