Groundwater Simulation for Virtual Education

Simulating Solute Transport in Groundwater


The simulation of the spill showing the different layers of soil and different concentrations of the contamination.

Groundwater, as the major contributor to the fresh water resource, has been contaminated by agricultural and industrial activities in recent years. However, it is extremely difficult to obtain data to assess the current pollution situation or to predict contaminates’ movement trend. The problem also renders challenges in education. Civil Engineering Students are easy to get bored when learning the modeling and simulating theories in class. In this project, a scenario was designed where an industrial plant had a 1,2 Dicholorethane (1,2-DCA) spill, caused by the failure of an underground storage tank.

A different angled view of the underground simulation.


The regional groundwater model encompassed an area 2000 feet long, 3000 feet wide and 100 feet deep. Simulating data resulting from Groundwater Vistas software is first visualized and rendered via Paraview and Open Scene Graph, and then rendered on an immersive 3D system via VR Juggler. Navigating by the wand and virtual probe, students can explore the virtual underground world, observe the contamination situation, and swiftly understand related theories and real world outcomes. A menu system is built for students to choose different remedial conditions.


Virtual Groundwater webpage


The Groundwater project was used as a virtual lab in 2010 & 2011. Students and faculty have responded positively to using the project for class. Additional functionality has been requested and is in-progress. The new functionality will allow students to compare remedial strategies side-by-side for dealing with groundwater contamination.

“If you can visualize it you can understand.”

Steven Vanes
Civil Engineering student

“The 3-D visualization models bring the concept to life.”

Michael Schmitz
Civil Engineering student

“The virtual worlds being created at the center will propel our student’s knowledge and understanding of their course knowledge and practical application of their studies.  This advanced technology is designed to stimulate new intellectual exchanges and critical thinking that are intertwined between the textbook and real-world applications”

Chenn Zhou
CIVS Director


Click the movie below to see Ground Water Quality in detail.

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Faculty Collaborator: Dr. Chandramouli Viswanathan, Mechanical Engineering

Groundwater Quality

Download Groundwater Quality Flyer