There is a need for groundwater modelling approaches that can incorporate both the complexity of riverbeds and the influence of lateral flows through the river banks in the simulation of river–aquifer interaction. A simple and straight-forward approach is proposed for modelling river–aquifer interaction in gaining rivers based on existing building blocks available in MODFLOW. The river water itself is modelled as constant-head cells, while the riverbed is modelled as one or more separate layers. The Horizontal Flow Barrier (HFB) Package is used to simulate the effect of a river bank on lateral exchange fluxes between river and aquifer. This approach has several advantages over conventional MODFLOW streamflow packages: (1) riverbeds can be modelled as several layers with different hydraulic properties; (2) both vertical and horizontal flow through the riverbed can be modelled; and (3) lateral flow through the river banks can be simulated. The capabilities of the new approach are demonstrated in two applications based on a MODFLOW model of the Aa River, Belgium. Application I demonstrates that the approach can be used to model heterogeneous multi-layered riverbeds. Results show that neglecting this heterogeneity can result in an overestimation of river–aquifer exchange fluxes. Application II shows that the approach can be used to simulate the effect of lateral fluxes through river banks. It demonstrates that lateral fluxes can be a major contributor to total river–aquifer exchange fluxes. The proposed approach provides the necessary tools to accurately model river–aquifer interaction for gaining rivers in MODFLOW.
- Groundwater/surface-water interaction
- Numerical modelling
- River bank seepage