Study Guide for a Beginning Course in Ground-Water Hydrology, Part 1: Course Participants

U.S. Geological Survey, Open File Report 90-183

by O. Lehn Franke, Thomas E. Reilly, Ralph J. Haefner and Dale L. Simmons

This report is available as a pdf below


The principal purpose of this study guide is to provide a broad selection of study materials that comprise a beginning course in ground-water hydrology. These study materials consist primarily of notes and exercises. The notes are designed to emphasize ideas and to clarify technical points that commonly cause difficulty and confusion to inexperienced hydrologists and may not receive adequate treatment in standard textbooks. Some of the exercises are more extensive than those usually found in textbooks to provide an additional level of detail and to focus on concepts that we consider to be particularly important. Detailed answers to exercises with explanatory comments are available in a companion publication.

The most important and unique technical feature of this course is the emphasis on the concept of a ground-water system. Generally, this concept is first developed extensively in a more advanced rather than a beginning course in ground-water hydrology. We believe that it is highly desirable to introduce this concept early in a hydrologist's education because it provides the best possible conceptual framework for analyzing and guiding all phases of any investigation related to ground water.

The study guide is divided into five sections: (1) Fundamental concepts and definitions, (2) Principles of ground-water flow and storage, (3) Description and analysis of ground-water systems, (4) Ground-water flow to wells, and (5) Ground-water contamination. Each section is subdivided into a number of subtopics, and each subtopic is followed by an appropriate "assignment" and comments on the topic or study materials. The "assignment" consists of a list, in preferred order of study, of readings in Applied Hydrogeology (Fetter, 1988), or readings in either Freeze and Cherry (1979) or Todd (1980), specially prepared notes, and exercises. The notes and exercises are numbered separately and sequentially in each major section of the study guide and are found immediately after the assignment and comments in the subsection in which they are listed.

If the user of this guide is participating in an intensive, short-term workshop, the material in the readings should be covered in lectures and discussion. In this case the readings can function as preparation for the workshop or a review and extended coverage of material afterwards. If a person is engaged in self-study, the readings are an essential part of the study sequence.

The ideal minimum technical background for users of this study guide is (a) 1 year of basic college physics, (b) 1 year of calculus, and (c) one semester of physical geology. Of course, additional background in any or all of these subject areas is highly desirable. A person with a technical background in a subject other than geology will benefit greatly from reading selected parts of basic texts in physical geology, stratigraphy, and structural geology. In addition, although we do not attempt to cover this subject area in the outline, basic chemistry and geochemistry are fundamental to the broad field of ground-water hydrology. Finally, we have taught beginning ground-water hydrology successfully to individuals with less technical background than that outlined above - perhaps the most important prerequisite for learning a new subject is the motivation of the prospective learner.

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