An interactive multi-objective optimization framework for groundwater inverse modeling

Abhishek Singh, Barbara S. Minsker, Albert J. Valocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The groundwater inverse problem of estimating heterogeneous groundwater model parameters (hydraulic conductivity in this case) given measurements of aquifer response (such as hydraulic heads) is known to be an ill-posed problem, with multiple parameter values giving similar fits to the aquifer response measurements. This problem is further exacerbated due to the lack of extensive data, typical of most real-world problems. In such cases, it is desirable to incorporate expert knowledge in the estimation process to generate more reasonable estimates. This work presents a novel interactive framework, called the 'Interactive Multi-Objective Genetic Algorithm' (IMOGA), to solve the groundwater inverse problem considering different sources of quantitative data as well as qualitative expert knowledge about the site. The IMOGA is unique in that it looks at groundwater model calibration as a multi-objective problem consisting of quantitative objectives - calibration error and regularization - and a 'qualitative' objective based on the preference of the geological expert for different spatial characteristics of the conductivity field. All these objectives are then included within a multi-objective genetic algorithm to find multiple solutions that represent the best combination of all quantitative and qualitative objectives. A hypothetical aquifer case-study (based on the test case presented by Freyberg [Freyberg DL. An exercise in ground-water model calibration and prediction. Ground Water 1988;26(3)], for which the 'true' parameter values are known, is used as a test case to demonstrate the applicability of this method. It is shown that using automated calibration techniques without using expert interaction leads to parameter values that are not consistent with site-knowledge. Adding expert interaction is shown to not only improve the plausibility of the estimated conductivity fields but also the predictive accuracy of the calibrated model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1269-1283
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Genetic algorithms
  • Groundwater calibration
  • Interactive optimization
  • Inverse modeling
  • Multi-objective
  • Pilot points
  • Regularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'An interactive multi-objective optimization framework for groundwater inverse modeling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this