Groundwater Basics - Environmental Geology Lecture Outline

Introductory statement: Water is a universal solvent, is the substance of life, has unusual properties, and could be considered the most important resource we have since we can't do without it. Thus, it is totally appropriate to learn about it in this class. Before we can address the related environmental concerns we need to understand the science that informs these concerns. Since this is a environmental geology course we will focus in on groundwater, and the science of hydrogeology. This is a very interdisciplinary science, involving geology, physics of flow, low temperature aqueous chemistry, microbial biology. We will see there is plenty of connection between groundwaters and surface waters, reminding us that natural systems are open ones. More and more people are depending on groundwater for their supply.

Dr. Schimmrich has collected links to hydrology and hydrogeology.

Physical properties of water: dipolar molecule, large liquid range, role as solvent.

What are the myriad 'uses' of water?

Water resources:

How does the water get into the ground?

How much water can the ground hold (what is its porosity)?

Consider the diagram of a vesicular volcanic rock such as pumice. It obviously has a high porosity. However, pumice floats on water if it has a high enough porosity, which tells us that the water can't move through the rock and into the pore space easily (otherwise it would sink). This reminds us that other factors than porosity must play a role in how water moves through a rocks pore space.

What determines in what pattern and how fast water flows in the ground?

Groundwater flow, Darcy's law, and hydraulic conductivity:

Does the equation for the flow of water through a rock look like any other basic physical equations?

Aquifer types:

How can we map groundwater surfaces?


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