Leaders in groundwater research and management are convening at Princeton University next week for the world’s largest water modeling conference. Experts from academia and industry, students and policymakers will share strategies for understanding and securing the global supply of groundwater, which represents about 98% of the planet’s supply of liquid fresh water.

Hosted by Princeton’s Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center (IGWMC) and slated for June 2-5, the MODFLOW and More conference will bring nearly 250 attendees to campus for keynote talks, short courses, a poster session and a panel discussion focused on the themes of “AI, Global Change, and the Future of Groundwater Modeling.” This is the 12th rendition of the conference and the second time it’s been held at Princeton.

The conference aims to disseminate and advance state-of-the-art digital tools for groundwater modeling. Accurate tools for prediction and decision making are critical in confronting the threats of climate change, emerging contaminants and increasing water use, said conference organizer Reed Maxwell, director of the IGWMC and Princeton’s William and Edna Macaleer Professor of Engineering and Applied Science.

“We focus not just on academic research, but on tech transfer. If we really want to have an impact, we need connections with government agencies, national laboratories and industry. So, there’s strong engagement all the way across,” said Maxwell, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and the High Meadows Environmental Institute.

Maxwell said he’s encouraged that the field of groundwater modeling, and broader attention to its importance, have grown substantially since the conference was first held in 1998 — when the U.S. Geological Survey’s MODFLOW was the only available groundwater simulation tool. Still, simulations of groundwater are not currently included in global climate models

Now, a major focus of the research community is on providing a model that will integrate with climate models, allowing researchers to examine interactions between groundwater and the dynamics of Earth’s ocean, atmosphere and land. Other priorities include bringing together groundwater data from different sources around the United States and the globe, and applying machine learning techniques to improve the performance of complex models, said Maxwell.

Conference presentations will cover topics including modeling coastal aquifers under sea-level rise; modeling the transport of environmental contaminants; data-driven modeling and machine learning; groundwater and climate change; modeling interactions between surface water and groundwater; and supporting sustainable water management with hydrologic models. Seven short courses will help participants build their overall modeling skills and learn the specifics of key platforms used in the field.

The conference program is available online.

The conference will feature keynote addresses by six renowned hydrologists. The speakers and topics are listed below.

Ruben Juanes, professor of civil and environmental engineering; and of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will discuss human-made earthquakes and the energy transition.

Christa Peters-Lidard, director in the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and a 1997 Ph.D. graduate from Princeton, will speak about data-driven hydrology and possibilities for “digital twin” technology that would create a continuously updated virtual model of Earth’s water systems.

Holly Michael, director of the Delaware Environmental Institute, and professor and Unidel Fraser Russell Career Development Chair for the Environment at the University of Delaware, will cover the complexities of coastal aquifers and the effects of extreme events.

Laura Condon, associate professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, and Ty Ferré, University Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona, will lead a discussion on the future of groundwater modeling education.

Kenneth Belitz, a research hydrologist with the Water Resources Mission Area of the U.S. Geological Survey, will speak on applications of ensemble tree machine learning to hydrogeology.

In addition to the IGWMC, the conference is supported by Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, High Meadows Environmental Institute, and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.


  • Reed Maxwell

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