Groundwater vulnerability assessment: A review including new statistical and hybrid methods

Sci Total Environ. 2022 May 20;822:153486. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153486. Epub 2022 Feb 3.


The concept of groundwater vulnerability was first introduced in the 1970s in France to recognize sensitive areas in which surface pollution could affect groundwater, and to enable others to develop management methods for groundwater protection against surface pollutants. Since this time, numerous methods have been developed for groundwater vulnerability assessment (GVA). These can be categorized into four groups: (i) overlay and index-based methods, (ii) process-based simulation models, (iii) statistical methods, and (iv) hybrid methods. This work provides a comprehensive review of modern GVA methods, which in contrast to previous reviews, examines the last two categories in detail. First, the concept of groundwater vulnerability is defined, then the major GVA methods are introduced and classified. This includes detailed accounts of statistical methods, which can be subdivided into orthodox statistical, data-driven and Bayesian methods, and their advantages and disadvantages, as well as modern hybrid methods. It is concluded that Bayesian inference offers many advantages compared with other GVA methods. It combines theory and data to give the posterior probabilities of different models, which can be continually updated with new data. Furthermore, using the Bayesian approach, it is possible to calculate the probability of a proposition, which is exactly what is needed to make decisions. However, despite the advantages of Bayesian inference, its applications to date have been very limited.

Keywords: Bayesian inference; Groundwater vulnerability assessment; Overlay and index-based methods; Process-based methods; Statistical methods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Computer Simulation
  • Environmental Monitoring* / methods
  • France
  • Groundwater*