Changing an Existing Model to be a Predictive Model

When you have a completed GMS model, you can use that same model to create a predictive model. A predictive model is used to make predictions based on hypothetical future scenarios. For example, you may need to create a model that predicts if an aquifer will experience strain with an increased population drawing from the aquifer in the model area.

Groundwater model

In general, a predictive model is created by using an existing model, then altering an aspect of that model based on the hypothesis. You then run the model again and compare your results with your prediction. Any version of MODFLOW, or any of the other available numeric models in GMS, can be used to create a predictive model.

One method of setting up a predictive model might be as follows:

  1. Create and run a steady state model
  2. Calibrate the model to reduce error in the predictive model
  3. Set the transient settings to a future date
  4. Run the transient model

It is important for you to have an expectation of the outcome of the model run so that you can compare the results with that expectation. When the model run is completed, carefully review the model run results to determine the accuracy of the predictions. When creating a predictive model, you can make use of stochastic analyses.

If the predictive model seems to be far outside of your expectations, then you will need to troubleshoot the existing model before running the predictive model. Using a poorly developed existing model often leads to issues in the predictive model. Make certain the existing model has been well calibrated to closely match the field-observed values. If possible, calibrate the existing model to multiple sets of observation data before creating a predictive model.

Now that you know some of the principles in developing a predictive model, creating your own predictive model in GMS today!

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Using MODFLOW Native Files

If you have been using MODFLOW with GMS for any amount of time, you have likely noticed that GMS uses a modified version of the MODFLOW files. This is so that the MODFLOW files can be used more efficiently by the GMS interface.

However, there are times when a project may require using the native MODFLOW files. This is often necessary when opening a MODFLOW project that was not originally created in GMS, or when sharing a project with someone who does not have access to GMS.

When importing native MODFLOW files into GMS, there are some important concepts to keep in mind:

  • You will need to start by importing either the NAM file or MFN file. These files contain a directory for the other files in the MODFLOW project and how they should be opened.
  • It is important to keep all of the MODFLOW files together in the same directory. Having only the NAME or MFN file will not be enough to open the MODLOW project.
  • Files for the packages used with the project will typically have a file extension that matches the package. For example, the Wells package will have the extension "*.wel".
  • All native MODFLOW files can be opened and reviewed using a text editor if needed. See the MODFLOW user guide for information on the file format.
The Save Native Text Copy option

Native MODFLOW files can be exported from GMS by turning on the Save Native Text Copy option in the MODFLOW Global/Basic Package dialog. When exporting native MODFLOW files, keep the following in mind:

  • GMS will create a separate directory with the native MODFLOW files. This directory will typically be the project name with "_text" appended to it. For example, if the project is named "Aquifer", the directory will be named "Aquifer_text".
  • All files in this directory should be kept together.
  • As mentioned before, the files can be reviewed using a text editor.

With GMS 10.4, MODFLOW 6 native files can be imported and exported.

Being able to use native MODFLOW files can greatly enhance collaboration with projects. Try out importing and exporting native MODFLOW files in GMS today!

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Exploring MODFLOW Head Boundary Packages

GMS allows using a number of different MODFLOW head boundary packages (GHB, RIV, STR, SFR, etc.) to indicate flow in or out of your model. These packages often appear to be similar. To the differences between them, here we discuss a few of these packages.

Example of MODFLOW head boundary packages available in GMS
General Head

The General Head Boundary (GHB) is, conceptually, a fixed head far from the model where it is assumed to be a fixed head with time (i.e., the river or head will not be affected by the model stresses over time). The purpose of using this boundary condition is to avoid unnecessarily extending the model domain outward to meet the element influencing the head in the model. As a result, the general head condition is usually assigned along the outside edge of the model domain.

General head cells are often used to simulate lakes. General head conditions are specified by assigning a head and a conductance to a selected set of cells. If the water table elevation rises above the specified head, water flows out of the aquifer. If the water table elevation falls below the specified head, water flows into the aquifer. In both cases, the flow rate is proportional to the head difference, and the constant of proportionality is the conductance.


The MODFLOW River (RIV) package only tracks flow between the aquifer and the river. With the River Package, once water has entered the river, it is lost to the model.


Unlike the River package, the Stream (STR) package routes flow through the stream. The water can travel downstream and possibly re-enter the aquifer at another point. The Stream package also allow periodic drying. However, there are more restrictions than in the River package.

Also unlike the River package, the Stream package calculates the water depth based on the flow rather than it being manually entered. There are several different options available for calculating water depth, including using Manning’s equation or a depth versus flow table.

The Stream package divides streams into reaches and segments. It models effects of rivers on aquifers while tracking flow in river. Interaction between surficial streams and the groundwater for the Stream package uses Manning’s equation and simple channel hydraulics to compute the stage in the stream.

Streamflow Routing

This Streamflow Routing (SFR2) package is similar to the Stream package. Though it has more restrictions than STR, it has more sophisticated hydraulics and routing options.

These are just the most commonly-used of over a dozen different MODFLOW head boundary packages that can be used with GMS. Go ahead and explore the different MODFLOW packages available in GMS today!

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Troubleshooting Observations in GMS

After creating your observation points in GMS, have you ever reviewed the results from the observation wells and thought they didn't look right? It can sometimes happen that observation wells give back the wrong values or are missing altogether. This can happen for a number of reasons.

Here are a few tips to help ensure that your observation points give back accurate information:

Point Outside Grid
  1. Review the location of the observation points/wells. Make certain the point is located on the grid. A common issue is that the elevation of the point causes it to be above or below the grid, so be certain to review this.
  2. Make certain the observation points have correctly mapped over to the grid. If the point is outside of the grid area, then it will not be included in the model run.
  3. After being mapped over, check that the observation wells are in the correct layer of the grid. If the observation point is meant to be on more than one layer, make certain it shows up on each layer.
  4. Well Screen Equals Zero
  5. When using a well screen, check the length of the point. If the length is 0, then the observation point will not be able to record any results. Check that the top screen elevation is higher (greater) than the bottom screen elevation by a positive, non-zero amount.
  6. Check that the observation point is in cells that are active. If there are no head values, or the cell is dry, then it is unlikely that the observation point will provide any useful information.

These are just some of the items to look for when using observation points in GMS. For most of these issues, when you save the file, a warning message should appear.

If you have a current license of GMS with paid maintenance, you may contact technical support for additional help in using observations. For project specific troubleshooting, contact Aquaveo's consulting team.

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