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Implementation of groundwater flow and transport numerical models is generally a challenge, time-consuming and financially-demanding task, in charge to specialized modelers and consulting firms. At a later stage, within clearly stated limits of applicability, these models are often expected to be made available to less knowledgeable personnel to support/design and running of predictive simulations within more familiar environments than specialized simulation systems. GIS systems coupled with spatial databases appear to be ideal candidates to address problem above, due to their much wider diffusion and expertise availability. Current paper discusses the issue from a tight-coupling architecture perspective, aimed at integration of spatial databases, GIS and numerical simulation engines, addressing both observed and computed data management, retrieval and spatio-temporal analysis issues. Observed data can be migrated to the central database repository and then used to set up transient simulation conditions in the background, at run time, while limiting additional complexity and integrity failure risks as data duplication during data transfer through proprietary file formats. Similarly, simulation scenarios can be set up in a familiar GIS system and stored to spatial database for later reference. As numerical engine is tightly coupled with the GIS, simulations can be run within the environment and results themselves saved to the database. Further tasks, as spatio-temporal analysis (i.e. for postcalibration auditing scopes), cartography production and geovisualization, can then be addressed using traditional GIS tools. Benefits of such an approach include more effective data management practices, integration and availability of modeling facilities in a familiar environment, streamlining spatial analysis processes and geovisualization requirements for the non-modelers community. Major drawbacks include limited 3D and time-dependent support in traditional GIS, and lack of dedicated calibration, analysis and visualization tools. A system implementation based upon ESRI geodatabase, ArcGIS and state-of-the-art finite element 3D flow and transport numerical code Feflow is presented and critically assessed.
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