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Fill and Spill Hydrology

Fill and Spill Hydrology

Jason Davison describes prairie pothole hydrology using an integrated surface/subsurface model. The attached video illustrates water filling up the first pothole and spilling into the second hole. 

Check out the video simulation and comment on what you see!

Originally shared by Jason Davison

Prairie Pothole Hydrology

The prairie pothole region, located in the North American Great Plains, was formed by glacial activity 10,000 years ago. The potholes play an extremely important role governing surface water flow, infiltration, and transient groundwater flow. 

The video below models two prairie potholes using HydroGeoSphere (HGS), a fully implicit integrated variably saturated surface and subsurface model. From my knowledge, this is the only numerical simulation modeling the prairie pothole system (please correct me if you know better!). These types of simulations are numerically difficult to solve because of their highly nonlinear nature 


The simulation was run for a total of 10 days, the first day precipitation fills up the upstream pothole. Once the pothole reaches a maximum capacity it spills the additional water downstream. The precipitation stops after the first day, and for the next nine days the water continues to infiltrate into the subsurface. 

In the middle of the subsurface there is a horizontal clay layer preventing the water from recharging the lower aquifer. A perched water table forms directly above the clay layer and will eventually percolate through the aquitard, evaporate as surface water, or transpire via plants.

More Information

For more information about HydroGeoSphere you can go to I am one of the developers working on this model as part of PhD work, feel free to ask me anything about this simulation or HGS.

This work was done by my colleague Steven Berg. 

Relative Papers:

1-> Philip Brunner and Craig T. Simmons, 2012, HydroGeoSphere: A Fully Integrated, Physically Based Hydrological Model

2-> R. Therrien and E.A. Sudicky, 1996, Three-dimensional analysis of variably-saturated flow and transport in discretely-fractured porous media: Model development and illustrative examples





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