Tuesday, February 27, 2018

BLOG: GET – The Next Generation of Groundwater Management

by Jim Schneider, PhD, Olsson Associates

While working at the State of Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources (NDNR), I provided information to the state’s water managers regarding the effect of past, current, and future groundwater use on Nebraska’s aquifers and streams. This required the use of groundwater models, which are numerical representations of these stream/aquifer systems. 
While groundwater models can be extremely useful, they are technically cumbersome and traditionally require extensive financial or human resources to receive information. Unfortunately, water resources management agencies typically don’t have the resources available to get the most out of their models.

Here are two contrasting situations that illustrate this point. 

First, an extensive amount of financial resources had gone into developing and completing a model simulation. The NDNR faced a deadline for an annual report, and information from the simulation was statutorily required to be incorporated into this report. The information dramatically changed the perspective on the level of development in a large portion of Nebraska. A review completed after the report was published revealed the model simulation was an outlier, and additional analysis refined the results. The damage to the public trust took years to overcome.

In the second situation, the State of Nebraska faced litigation over a violation of an interstate compact. In response, a team of scientists and planners spent years completing hundreds of model simulations, and their work revealed the accounting system used to identify an overuse was partially flawed and artificially inflated Nebraska’s overuse. The information uncovered by these simulations led to the state creating a plan to ensure it would avoid future violations. The accounting change and compliance plan were ultimately approved by the United States Supreme Court. 

The benefits of using models extensively became abundantly clear, but how to efficiently provide that level of scientific inquiry for situations less dire than Supreme Court litigation was not.

When I moved to Olsson Associates in September 2015, I was able to develop more innovative techniques. Working with clients on a variety of projects, I became convinced that the solution was to provide water managers direct access to their groundwater models. Thus, the Groundwater Evaluation Toolbox (GET) was born. 

GET is truly a paradigm shift in the way groundwater models are used to manage water. It’s now possible for anyone to use groundwater models to answer specific water management questions, in real time, right at their own desk. The software platform empowers water managers with an easy-to-use interface that keeps their groundwater models running as many hypothetical scenarios as desired, again and again. GET is a cloud-based software service provided on a subscription basis, so a client pays once for an unlimited number of runs. For more information on GET please visit get.olssonassociates.com.

Jim Schneider is a Senior Scientist on the Water Resources Team at Olsson Associates, Inc. in Lincoln, Nebraska. www.olssonassociates.com

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

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