The 25th Latornell Conservation Symposium


“The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River are critically important to Ontario’s environment and economy. They are also a source of joy for many Ontario residents in terms of scenic views, recreational opportunities, and spiritual significance and renewal.

The relationship between the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, and the surrounding landscape, is complicated. Many efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to understand, protect and restore these important water resources and to manage the impacts our activities have on them.


The 25th Latornell Conservation Symposium will explore the status of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and the lands that connect them in order to assess the work currently underway to protect, conserve and enhance them. What progress is being made, and what more needs to be done?”


World Water-Tech North America 2018

“Six Start-Ups Revealed for World Water-Tech North America 2018 -- Toronto, October 24-25

World Water-Tech North America has revealed six US and Canadian start-ups who have been selected to unveil their cutting-edge technologies and breakthrough innovations at the summit.

The water-tech start-ups will present in the renowned Technology Showcase sessions to an audience of over 250 global water leaders, technology integrators, engineers, utilities and investors.”


45th IAH conference in Korea

"We have an exciting and inspiring the 45th Congress of IAH 2018 on September 9-14, 2018 in Daejeon, South Korea. The IAH 2018 Scientific Committee welcomes the submission of abstracts from worldwide experts in the fields of hydrogeology.

In order to make IAH 2018 successful, please submit abstract through the website The deadline of abstract submission is March 31, 2018. Don’t let your science and technology be left out due to late submission!

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to the IAH 2018 Secretariat Office at

We look forward to seeing you all this coming September in Daejeon, South Korea."


HGS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Understanding the water balance paradox in the Athabasca River Basin, Canada


This study demonstrates the importance of the including and appropriately parameterizing peatlands and forestlands for basin-scale integrated surface–subsurface models in the northern boreal forest, with particular emphasis on the Athabasca River Basin (ARB). With a long-term water balance approach to the ARB, we investigate reasons why downstream mean annual stream flow rates are consistently higher than upstream, despite the subhumid water deficit conditions in the downstream regimes. A high-resolution 3D variably saturated subsurface and surface water flow and evapotranspiration model of the ARB is constructed based on the bedrock and surficial geology and the spatial distribution of peatlands and their corresponding eco-regions. Historical climate data were used to drive the model for calibration against 40-year long-term average surface flow and groundwater observations during the historic instrumental period. The simulation results demonstrate that at the basin-scale, peatlands and forestlands can have a strong influence on the surface–subsurface hydrologic systems. In particular, peatlands in the midstream and downstream regimes of the ARB increase the water availability to the surface–subsurface water systems by reducing water loss through evapotranspiration. Based on the comparison of forestland evapotranspiration between observation and simulation, the overall spatial average evapotranspiration in downstream forestlands is larger than that in peatlands and thus the water contribution to the stream flow in downstream areas is relatively minor. Therefore, appropriate representation of peatlands and forestlands within the basin-scale hydrologic model is critical to reproduce the water balance of the ARB.

 3-D subsurface model for the Athabasca River Basin.

3-D subsurface model for the Athabasca River Basin.

 a) Spatial distribution of aridity index (AI) and b) Spatial distribution of actual aridity index (AAI) based on long-term steady state simulation results: JA=Jasper; HT=Hinton; WF=Windfall; AT=Athabasca; FM=Fort McMurray; and EA=Embarras Airport sub-basin.

a) Spatial distribution of aridity index (AI) and b) Spatial distribution of actual aridity index (AAI) based on long-term steady state simulation results: JA=Jasper; HT=Hinton; WF=Windfall; AT=Athabasca; FM=Fort McMurray; and EA=Embarras Airport sub-basin.

HGS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Analytical Approach to Estimate Salt Release from Tailings Sand Hummocks in Oil Sands Mine Closure


Integrated surface water and groundwater models are well suited for evaluating the long-term performance of oil sands mine closure landscapes to optimize reclamation designs that satisfy performance criteria. However, the scale of the problem makes it difficult to evaluate a large number of design alternatives using numerical models, while at the same time satisfying numerical criteria, such as the courant and peclet numbers. The problem becomes particularly challenging in the design of permeable sand tailings hummocks overlying relatively impermeable composite tailings, where vertical advective flushing of process-affected water through the tailings hummocks is coupled to lateral transport of diffusive release from the underlying composite tailings. We developed an analytical solution that rapidly estimates long-term mass loadings from the sand tailings without the challenges typically associated with numerical modelling. Advection and dispersion in the flushing zones, progressive diffusion into underlying low permeability layers, and purely diffusive release are all considered. A comparison of the analytical solutions to numerical simulations for a series of simple hypothetical cases demonstrated that the analytical solutions provide a reasonable simulation of the mass loadings from the reclaimed landscapes over the design life. Although the approach needs to be further verified and validated for more realistic complex mine reclamation conditions, the analytical framework provides a foundation for hydrologic analysis in mine reclamation and closure in the northern boreal environment.

Link to the published article.

HGS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Full Coupling Between the Atmosphere, Surface, and Subsurface for Integrated Hydrologic Simulation


An ever increasing community of earth system modelers is incorporating new physical processes into numerical models. This trend is facilitated by advancements in computational resources, improvements in simulation skill, and the desire to build numerical simulators that represent the water cycle with greater fidelity. In this quest to develop a state-of-the-art water cycle model, we coupled HydroGeoSphere (HGS), a 3-D control-volume finite element surface and variably saturated subsurface flow model that includes evapotranspiration processes, to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model, a 3-D finite difference nonhydrostatic mesoscale atmospheric model. The two-way coupled model, referred to as HGS-WRF, exchanges the actual evapotranspiration fluxes and soil saturations calculated by HGS to WRF; conversely, the potential evapotranspiration and precipitation fluxes from WRF are passed to HGS. The flexible HGS-WRF coupling method allows for unique meshes used by each model, while maintaining mass and energy conservation between the domains. Furthermore, the HGS-WRF coupling implements a subtime stepping algorithm to minimize computational expense. As a demonstration of HGS-WRF's capabilities, we applied it to the California Basin and found a strong connection between the depth to the groundwater table and the latent heat fluxes across the land surface.

Link to the published article.

HGS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Advancing Physically-Based Flow Simulations of Alluvial Systems Through Atmospheric Noble Gases and the Novel 37Ar Tracer Method


To provide a sound understanding of the sources, pathways, and residence times of groundwater water in alluvial river-aquifer systems, a combined multi-tracer and modeling experiment was carried out in an important alluvial drinking water wellfield in Switzerland. 222Rn, 3H/3He, atmospheric noble gases, and for the first time, the novel 37Ar -method were used to quantify residence times and mixing ratios of water from different sources. With a half-life of 35.1 days, 37Ar allowed to successfully close a critical observational time gap between 222Rn and 3H/3He for residence times of weeks to months. Covering the entire range of residence times of groundwater in alluvial systems revealed that, to quantify the fractions of water from different sources in such systems, atmospheric noble gases and helium isotopes are tracers suited for end-member mixing analysis. An updated illustration of available tracer methods, now including the new 37Ar method, is provided below:


The tracer-based mixing ratios were subsequently compared to mixing ratios simulated with the fully-integrated, physically-based flow model HydroGeoSphere. In order to simulate the propagation of the different sources of water in HydroGeoSphere, the Hydraulic Mixing Cell method (HMC) of Partington et al. (2013) was extended for this study to incorporate not only streamflow separation, but also tracking in the subsurface. Simulations of three different scenarios (poorly permeable, permeable and strongly permeable riverbed) are illustrated below. Both the exchange flux pattern on the surface and the fraction of surface water in the subsurface are illustrated.


The comparison between tracer-based and simulated mixing ratios revealed that models, which are only calibrated against hydraulic heads, cannot reliably reproduce mixing ratios or residence times of alluvial river-aquifer systems. However, the tracer-based mixing ratios allowed the identification of an appropriate flow model parametrization. Consequently, for alluvial systems, we recommend the combination of multi-tracer studies that cover all relevant residence times with fully-coupled, physically-based flow modelling using HGS and HMC-based flow tracking to better characterize the complex interactions of river-aquifer systems.

Link to the published article.

HGS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Estimating the Spatial Extent of Unsaturated Zones in Heterogeneous River-Aquifer Systems


The presence of unsaturated zones at the river-aquifer interface has large implications on numerous hydraulic and chemical processes. However, the hydrological and geological controls that influence the development of unsaturated zones have so far only been analyzed with simplified conceptualizations of flow processes, or homogeneous conceptualizations of the hydraulic conductivity in either the aquifer or the riverbed. We systematically investigated the influence of heterogeneous structures in both the riverbed and the aquifer on the development of unsaturated zones. The three fundamentally different states of connection resulting from the different degrees of saturation underneath the riverbed are conceptually illustrated below, including examples of the probability distributions of hydraulic conductivity of the riverbed and the aquifer that may lead to these states of connection (the saturated parts of the aquifer underneath the riverbed are illustrated in blue):


The investigations were based on a large number of numerical flow experiments using HydroGeoSphere. One of the goals of the study was to develop a simple method to predict the spatial extent of the unsaturated zone underneath a riverbed for heterogeneous river-aquifer systems, without the need to undertake complex numerical simulations. For this purpose, simulations of the following degrees of complexity were carried out:


Based on the results of the numerical simulations with HydroGeoSphere, a stochastic 1-D criterion that takes both riverbed and aquifer heterogeneity into account was developed using a Monte Carlo sampling technique. The approach allows the reliable estimation of the upper bound of the spatial extent of unsaturated areas underneath a riverbed. Through systematic numerical modeling experiments, we furthermore show that horizontal capillary forces can reduce the spatial extent of unsaturated zones under clogged areas. An example of these simualtions is provided below:


This analysis shows how the spatial structure of clogging layers and aquifers influence the propensity for unsaturated zones to develop: In riverbeds where clogged areas are made up of many small, spatially disconnected patches with a diameter in the order of 1 m, unsaturated areas are less likely to develop compared to riverbeds where large clogged areas exist adjacent to unclogged areas. A combination of the stochastic 1-D criterion with an analysis of the spatial structure of the clogging layers and the potential for resaturation can help develop an appropriate conceptual model and inform the choice of a suitable numerical simulator for river-aquifer systems.

Link to the published article.

HGS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Efficient Uncertainty Quantification in Fully-Integrated Surface and Subsurface Hydrologic Simulations

AUTHORS: K.L. Miller, S.J. Berg, J.H. Davison, E.A. Sudicky, and P.A. Forsyth

Although high performance computers and advanced numerical methods have made the application of fully-integrated surface and subsurface flow and transport models such as HydroGeoSphere common place, run times for large complex basin models can still be on the order of days to weeks, thus, limiting the usefulness of traditional workhorse algorithms for uncertainty quantification (UQ) such as Latin Hypercube simulation (LHS) or Monte Carlo simulation (MCS), which generally require thousands of simulations to achieve an acceptable level of accuracy. In this paper we investigate non-intrusive polynomial chaos for uncertainty quantification, which in contrast to random sampling methods (e.g., LHS and MCS), represents a model response of interest as a weighted sum of polynomials over the random inputs. Once a chaos expansion has been constructed, approximating the mean, covariance, probability density function, cumulative distribution function, and other common statistics as well as local and global sensitivity measures is straightforward and computationally inexpensive, thus making PCE an attractive UQ method for hydrologic models with long run times. Our polynomial chaos implementation was validated through comparison with analytical solutions as well as solutions obtained via LHS for simple numerical problems. It was then used to quantify parametric uncertainty in a series of numerical problems with increasing complexity, including a two-dimensional fully-saturated, steady flow and transient transport problem with six uncertain parameters and one quantity of interest; a one-dimensional variably-saturated column test involving transient flow and transport, four uncertain parameters, and two quantities of interest at 101 spatial locations and five different times each (1010 total); and a three-dimensional fully-integrated surface and subsurface flow and transport problem for a small test catchment involving seven uncertain parameters and three quantities of interest at 241 different times each. Numerical experiments show that polynomial chaos is an effective and robust method for quantifying uncertainty in fully-integrated hydrologic simulations, which provides a rich set of features and is computationally efficient. Our approach has the potential for significant speedup over existing sampling based methods when the number of uncertain model parameters is modest ( ≤ 20). To our knowledge, this is the first implementation of the algorithm in a comprehensive, fully-integrated, physically-based three-dimensional hydrosystem model.

Link to the published article.

Read full manuscript here.



HGS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Wetlands and Flood Mitigation in Ontario: Natural adaptation to extreme rainfall

AUTHOR: MASON MARCHILDON, P. Eng. Oak Ridges Moraine Groundwater Program

Wetlands are often recognized for their flood control value, but little research exists specific to Ontario, where extreme weather causing flooding poses ever-greater threats to urban areas. Ducks Unlimited Canada has undertaken new research to better understand the role of wetlands in storing and attenuating flood flows in an urban/rural watershed. The second phase of this research, reported here, employs advanced hydrologic modelling to address the questions of where and how wetlands are most effective at retaining water, what consequences further wetland loss may have on flooding, and what potential wetland restoration could have to improve flood storage within a watershed. The modelling was accomplished using fully-integrated, three-dimensional variably saturated hydrologic model built for the entire Credit River watershed at a high spatiotemporal resolution.

For more information click here.