Use of alternative conceptual models to assess the impact of a buried valley on groundwater vulnerability

Dorte Seifert, Torben O. Sonnenborg, Peter Scharling, Klaus Hinsby

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41 Citations (Scopus)


A buried valley incised into a sequence of pre-Quaternary sediments is shown to seriously affect the vulnerability of groundwater. Often the existence of buried valleys is not known or is not described explicitly in a hydrogeological model. In the present study, two numerical groundwater models, representing two alternative conceptual models, were produced to help quantify the effect of the valley on groundwater vulnerability. One model included the buried valley and the other did not. Both models were subjected to calibration and were found to describe hydraulic head and river discharge equally well. Even though the two models showed similar calibration statistics; fluxes, travel paths and travel times were affected by the inclusion of the buried valley. The recharge area and the groundwater age of potential abstraction wells placed in the pre-Quaternary deep aquifers surrounding the buried valley were different for the two models, with significantly higher vulnerability when the valley was included in the model. Based on the results of the present study, it is concluded that a buried valley may not always be detectable when calibrating a wrong conceptual model. If reliable results should be obtained a good geological model has to be constructed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-674
Number of pages16
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Buried valleys
  • Conceptual models
  • Groundwater flow
  • Groundwater protection
  • Vulnerability

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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