How to do more Groundwater Modeling (or any modeling) in less amount of time


Because time matters and everybody wants results and solutions now, groundwater modelers (or any water resources modeler) have to think how they can do more with the limited time available. This is a restructuration, a reengineering, a new conceptualization of not only what we do, but how we do, and if in the end we are happy with the main results, and secondary results we get from our modeling work.

Groundwater modelers are water resources specialists with high skills in computing, coding, maths and groundwater flow regime comprehension. The type of work, the complexity of the given areas of study, the limited observation data, the limited budget, the short completion times and the overall low perception and low understanding of groundwater flow and groundwater quality makes the modeling work somehow particular where we have to adopt special techniques to deliver good work while preserving the modeler integrity and wellness.

Avoid the “mercenary groundwater modeler” profile

This article will describe top strategies to optimize the groundwater modeler work, but somehow the article has the intention to stop the “mercenary groundwater profile” as the person that is involved in a high number of projects, has to deliver great amount of reports, is always on meetings and it is at office more than 60 hours per week.

Based on the description of the mercenary modeler, the quality of the produced groundwater models are doubtful, questionable or if not of bad quality. Imagine the level of trust for a patient with cardiac problem if they meet the surgeon stressed, always busy and attending many patients simultaneously.

For us groundwater modeling is an “artisan” product, were a high skilled person makes a product on a non-mechanized way. Having a mercenary profile is far from good, neither for the product nor for the modeler.

Top strategies to do mode in less time

Because everybody wants to go home on time and with a smile. The following list has the top items to implement on every day groundwater modeling work:

a) Plan your day ahead

You can be on doing three reports or involved on four research projects, while attending courses or having meetings, and even you want to research some code that was just released. How can you do all of these tasks? The answer relies on not eating the cake all at once but eating the cake piece by piece. You can’t finish all your pending work today, but can finish the next week if you start today.

You know what you need to do in the coming two weeks; start by setting daily tasks and evaluate task achievement and project performance every two days.

b) Follow an schedule

A mercenary modeler has no schedule, but a reasonable modeler need specific working hours. Performance of human brain is amazing with high energy consumption based on high loads imposed, but the attention capacity is not unlimited and a modeler can’t work continuously more than three hours without a break. On a daily basis a modeler can only work two “turns” on a sustainable and not mercenary manner. On a regular basis, it is not recommended to model late at night because the brain cannot disconnect from the attention paid to the model and dreams can be disrupted.

c) Have an eye on your distractors

Distractors are not bad for groundwater modelers; if fact they are “yang” while the model is the “ying”, and brings you an equilibrium on your mental activity, however, these distractors cannot distract you. Smartphones, social networks, newspaper, cookies and even your email need to be apart from your “turn”. Once you have finished the stage of high concentration, you can relax yourself on pleasant activities like the mentioned about or reading the blog of Hatarilabs.

d) Avoid unnecessary meetings

Meetings are great for model construction, for concept appropriation, for project coordination and many other professional reasons, but they have a dark side: meetings take time, they are not relaxing, have no specific result, they don’t follow a specific schedule, and somehow nobody knows how many meetings are needed for a project.

There is no clear definition about when a meeting is unnecessary, but somehow, if a meeting occupy a “turn” that means that 50% of your overall daily productivity is gone. A strategy is to implement a “sprechstunde” or specific hours for meetings or project coordination, in fact the german word is for only one hour.

e) Pose philosophical questions

When performing a calibration or a series of simulations, or even when writing a proposal, some philosophical questions have to be made. These questions are related to:

  • Are we doing this right?

  • Can this be done in another way?

  • The outcome of this modeling work is really worth for the client?

  • Does this procedure will take more time than is available?

Think on this questions as a internal quality control process that sometimes it is not so evident because we are on the rush doing more, and more modeling work.

f) Let the code be with you

Optimized work needs code for automation. Automation of low-intellectual tasks as data compilation, map elaboration, charts drawing can be done with codes in Python, C++ or Julia. A groundwater modeler have spend more time on highly skilled tasks as model calibration, model simulation and model output analysis; as long as the modeler optimize its workflow with small scripts, there is more time for important tasks and you can go home on time.


Saul Montoya

Saul Montoya es Ingeniero Civil graduado de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú en Lima con estudios de postgrado en Manejo e Ingeniería de Recursos Hídricos (Programa WAREM) de la Universidad de Stuttgart con mención en Ingeniería de Aguas Subterráneas y Hidroinformática.

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