Ground-water models cannot be validated

Advances in Water Resources
By:  and 



Ground-water models are embodiments of scientific hypotheses. As such, the models cannot be proven or validated, but only tested and invalidated. However, model testing and the evaluation of predictive errors lead to improved models and a better understanding of the problem at hand. In applying ground-water models to field problems, errors arise from conceptual deficiencies, numerical errors, and inadequate parameter estimation. Case histories of model applications to the Dakota Aquifer, South Dakota, to bedded salts in New Mexico, and to the upper Coachella Valley, California, illustrate that calibration produces a nonunique solution and that validation, per se, is a futile objective. Although models are definitely valuable tools for analyzing ground-water systems, their predictive accuracy is limited. The terms validation and verification are misleading and their use in ground-water science should be abandoned in favor of more meaningful model-assessment descriptors.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Ground-water models cannot be validated
Series title Advances in Water Resources
DOI 10.1016/0309-1708(92)90033-X
Volume 15
Issue 1
Year Published 1992
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 9 p.
First page 75
Last page 83
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