Uncertainties are unavoidable in water-quality modeling and subsequent management decisions. Monte Carlo simulation and first-order uncertainty analysis (involving linearization at central values of the uncertain variables) have been frequently used to estimate probability distributions for water-quality model output due to their simplicity. Each method has its drawbacks: Monte Carlo simulation's is mainly computational time; and first-order analysis are mainly questions of accuracy and representativeness, especially for nonlinear systems and extreme conditions. An improved (advanced) first-order method is presented, where the linearization point varies to match the output level whose exceedance probability is sought. The advanced first-order method is tested on the Streeter-Phelps equation to estimate the probability distribution of critical dissolved-oxygen deficit and critical dissolved oxygen using two hypothetical examples from the literature. The advanced first-order method provides a close approximation of the exceedance probability for the Streeter-Phelps model output estimated by Monte Carlo simulation using less computer time - by two orders of magnitude - regardless of the probability distributions assumed for the uncertain model parameters.
Additional publication details
Improved first-order uncertainty method for water-quality modeling