Drivers and barriers for taking account of geological uncertainty in decision making for groundwater protection

Elisa Bjerre, Lone Søderkvist Kristensen, Peter Engesgaard, Anker Lajer Højberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The geological conceptual model is considered a major source of uncertainty in groundwater modelling and well capture zone delineation. However, how to account for it in groundwater policy and management remains largely unresolved. We explore the drivers and barriers to account for geological conceptual uncertainty in groundwater protection amongst decision makers and stakeholders in an agricultural groundwater catchment in Denmark. Using a groundwater model, we analyze the impact of alternative geological conceptual models on capture zone delineation. A focus area, which covers multiple modelled capture zones, is defined and considered for groundwater protection. Model uncertainty and focus area are discussed at two workshops, one with local and national stakeholders and another with local farmers. The drivers to account for model uncertainty include: i) safer drinking water protection by considering a larger area for protection than identified from a single geological model; and ii) stability over time of management plans. The main barrier is the additional cost to the stakeholders for the protection of a larger area. We conclude that integration of geological uncertainty in groundwater protection plans may be improved through: i) better communication between the research community and the national water authority; ii) more constraining guidelines regarding the estimation of geological uncertainty; and iii) the development of a framework ensuring knowledge transfer to the local water authorities and detailing how to integrate uncertainty in management plans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141045
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Conceptual uncertainty
  • Consensus approach
  • Multi-model approach
  • Nitrate pollution
  • Stakeholder involvement
  • Well capture zone delineation

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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