Management of groundwater systems requires realistic conceptual hydrogeological models as a framework for numerical simulation modelling, but also for system understanding and communicating this to stakeholders and the broader community. To help overcome these challenges we developed GVS (Groundwater Visualisation System), a stand-alone desktop software package that uses interactive 3D visualisation and animation techniques. The goal was a user-friendly groundwater management tool that could support a range of existing real-world and pre-processed data, both surface and subsurface, including geology and various types of temporal hydrological information. GVS allows these data to be integrated into a single conceptual hydrogeological model. In addition, 3D geological models produced externally using other software packages, can readily be imported into GVS models, as can outputs of simulations (e.g. piezometric surfaces) produced by software such as MODFLOW or FEFLOW. Boreholes can be integrated, showing any down-hole data and properties, including screen information, intersected geology, water level data and water chemistry. Animation is used to display spatial and temporal changes, with time-series data such as rainfall, standing water levels and electrical conductivity, displaying dynamic processes. Time and space variations can be presented using a range of contouring and colour mapping techniques, in addition to interactive plots of time-series parameters. Other types of data, for example, demographics and cultural information, can also be readily incorporated. The GVS software can execute on a standard Windows or Linux-based PC with a minimum of 2 GB RAM, and the model output is easy and inexpensive to distribute, by download or via USB/DVD/CD. Example models are described here for three groundwater systems in Queensland, northeastern Australia: two unconfined alluvial groundwater systems with intensive irrigation, the Lockyer Valley and the upper Condamine Valley, and the Surat Basin, a large sedimentary basin of confined artesian aquifers. This latter example required more detail in the hydrostratigraphy, correlation of formations with drillholes and visualisation of simulation piezometric surfaces. Both alluvial system GVS models were developed during drought conditions to support government strategies to implement groundwater management. The Surat Basin model was industry sponsored research, for coal seam gas groundwater management and community information and consultation. The “virtual” groundwater systems in these 3D GVS models can be interactively interrogated by standard functions, plus production of 2D cross-sections, data selection from the 3D scene, rear end database and plot displays. A unique feature is that GVS allows investigation of time-series data across different display modes, both 2D and 3D. GVS has been used successfully as a tool to enhance community/stakeholder understanding and knowledge of groundwater systems and is of value for training and educational purposes. Projects completed confirm that GVS provides a powerful support to management and decision making, and as a tool for interpretation of groundwater system hydrological processes. A highly effective visualisation output is the production of short videos (e.g. 2–5 min) based on sequences of camera ‘fly-throughs’ and screen images. Further work involves developing support for multi-screen displays and touch-screen technologies, distributed rendering, gestural interaction systems. To highlight the visualisation and animation capability of the GVS software, links to related multimedia hosted online sites are included in the references
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