MODFLOW One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model (MODFLOW-OWHM)

The MODFLOW One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model (MF-OWHM) is a MODFLOW-2005 based integrated hydrologic model designed for the analysis of conjunctive-use management.






Initial contribute: 2020-01-02


U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
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Application-focused categoriesNatural-perspectiveLand regions
Method-focused categoriesProcess-perspectivePhysical process calculation
Method-focused categoriesProcess-perspectiveHuman-activity calculation

Detailed Description

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The MODFLOW One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model (MF-OWHM; Boyce and others, 2020Hanson and others, 2014) is a MODFLOW-2005 based integrated hydrologic model designed for the analysis of conjunctive-use management. The term “integrated” refers to the tight coupling of groundwater flow, surface-water flow, landscape processes, aquifer compaction and subsidence, reservoir operations, and conduit (karst) flow. This fusion results in a simulation software capable of addressing water-use and sustainability problems, including conjunctive-use, water-management, water-food-security, and climate-crop-water scenarios.  

MF-OWHM is based on the Farm Process for MODFLOW-2005 (MF-FMP2, Schmid and Hanson, 2009) that includes Surface-water Routing Process (SWR, Hughes and others, 2012), Seawater Intrusion (SWI, Bakker and others, 2013),Riparian Evapotranspiration (RIP-ET, Maddock III and others, 2012), and Conduit Flow (CFP Shoemaker and others, 2008). MF-OWHM contains all the previously available solvers and the new solvers such as Newton-Raphson (NWT, Niswonger and others, 2011) and the nonlinear preconditioned conjugate gradient (PCGN, Naff and Banta, 2008). 

As a second core version of MODFLOW-2005, MF-OWHM maintains backward compatibility with existing MODFLOW-2005 versions. Existing models developed using MODFLOW-2005 (Harbaugh, 2005), MODFLOW-NWT (Niswonger and others, 2011), MODFLOW-CFP (Shoemaker and others, 2008), and MODFLOW-FMP (Schmid and others, 2006; Schmid and Hanson, 2009) can also be simulated using MF-OWHM. 

flow chart diagramming the model packages that feed into the One Water Hydrologic Model

Diagram the MODFLOW-2005 framework and its descendants (Boyce and others, 2020)  (Public domain.)

The improvements, new features, modifications to MODFLOW-2005, and newly developed processes continue the MF-OWHM philosophy of retaining and tracking as much water as is feasible in the simulation domain. This philosophy provides the scientific and engineering community with confidence in the water accounting and a technically sound foundation to address broad classes of problems for the public.  

  • Process-based simulation 
    • Saturated groundwater flow(three-dimensional) 
    • Surface-water flow(one- and two-dimensional) 
      • Stream and river flow 
      • Lake and reservoir storage 
    • Landscape simulation and irrigated agriculture 
      • Land-use and crop simulation 
      • Root uptake of groundwater 
      • Precipitation 
      • Actual evapotranspiration 
      • Runoff 
      • Infiltration 
      • Estimated irrigation demand 
    • Reservoir operations 
    • Aquifer compaction and subsidence by vertical model-grid deformation 
    • Seawater intrusion by a sharp-interface assumption 
    • Karst-aquifer and fractured-bedrock flow 
    • Turbulent and laminar-pipe network flow 
    • Unsaturated groundwater flow (one-dimensional) 
  • Internal linkages among the processes that couple hydraulic head, flow, and deformation. 
  • Redesigned code for 
    • Faster simulation runtime 
    • Increased user-input options 
    • Easier for model updates 
    • Robust error reporting 

MF-OWHM uses a physically based simulation that is connected to a supply and demand framework. This framework starts with the landscape’s demand for water consumption that originates from either an administrative requirement—such as urban consumption or managed aquifer recharge—or from the landscape surface’s potential evaporation and transpiration. This “landscape water demand” is then satisfied from available supplies of water—such as precipitation, surface water, groundwater, and imported water. Water supply can be limited due to physical constraints from the natural and engineered water systems. These constraints occur due to the physics of natural groundwater and surface water flow and to physical limits of engineered systems, such as diversion canals or well-production capacity. The landscape water demand can affect both surface water and groundwater due to their interconnectivity. Further, the supply of groundwater and surface water can be controlled by water rights, managed through reservoir operations, or limited due to regulations. 

flow chart showing how surface water and groundwater are related to landscape water demands

Diagram showing that water flow and use is interconnected through physically-based processes and management processes. Note that precipitation is not included in figure, but is a source of water that could potentially reduce the landscape water demand and increase aquifer storage and stream flow (Boyce and others, 2020).  (Public domain.)


Program History

Version Highlights

MF-OWHM v2.00 is the second major release of MF-OWHM. This version involved a total rewrite of the Farm Process (FMP), inclusion of the Conduit Flow Process (CFP Shoemaker and others, 2008), and modifications that improved all the base MODFLOW packages. 

MF-OWHM v1.00 was the first major release of MF-OWHM that is a unification of the many separate versions of MODFLOW that have evolved for various classes of hydrologic issues. In addition to this, modifications were made to the MF2005 source code that improve stability, accuracy and make the resulting software more "user friendly". MF-OWHM v1.00 is now considered legacy code with minimal support. 

Version Information and Notes

MF-OWHM v2.00.00 04/7/2020 is the initial release of version 2. 

Note: Users are encouraged to read the documents that are provided in the 'doc' directory of this software distribution. 


Downloads and Documentation

General Information

Current Release: v.2.00.00, 04/7/2020

The MF-OWHM release comes in a variety of different installation options that depend on your platform or desired level of information included (i.e. full documentation or just the executable). Within the distribution the word Win and Nix are used to delineate between MS Windows and GNU Unix, respectively.   

If you wish to be included in our email list to be notified when updates occur, please send an email to with the word "add" in the title.

Software Downloads

Users are highly encouraged to read through the documentation located in the "doc" folder. If you use of this software please cite the USGS Techniques and Methods 6-A60 One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model (MODFLOW-OWHM) report (2020) in any associated publications and reports.

  • MS Windows executables and source code [9.5 MB]

Please Note: Pre-compiled unix/linux binaries may not work on all unix systems. If you are having issues, try useing the makefile and compile OWHM.

Documentation of MF-OWHM

  • Report: MF-OWHM2 and One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model (MODFLOW-OWHM) are the official USGS reports that describes the theory and input instructions at the time the distributions were first released. If you use of this software please cite the reports in any associated publications and reports. 

    The suggested citations are as follows:

    Boyce, S.E., Hanson, R.T., Ferguson, I., Schmid, W., Henson, W., Reimann, T., Mehl, S.M., and Earll, M.M., 2020, One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model: A MODFLOW Based Conjunctive Use and Integrated Hydrologic Flow Model (2020): U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods 6-A60, 435 p.

    Hanson, R.T., Boyce, S.E., Schmid, Wolfgang, Hughes, J.D., Mehl, S.M., Leake, S.A., Maddock, Thomas, III, and Niswonger, R.G., 2014, One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model (MODFLOW-OWHM): U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods 6-A51, 120 p.,




MF-OWHM Team (2020). MODFLOW One-Water Hydrologic Flow Model (MODFLOW-OWHM), Model Item, OpenGMS,


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Initial contribute : 2020-01-02



U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
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Scott B
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