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School of Environment, Education and Development

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BSc Geography and Geology
Benefit from a wide range of optional topics and practical trips on this combined degree.

BSc Geography and Geology / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:

Unit code EART30182
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


EART30182 (Hydrogeology) outlines the principles of physical and chemical hydrogeology; includes consideration of landfill site design with regard to aquifer protection; and the nature & dispersion of key contaminants in aquifers.


To introduce the principles of physical and chemical hydrogeology and the description of aquifers; to consider important aspects of groundwater contamination and aquifer protection.

Learning outcomes

Upon the successful completion of the module, students should be able to

* outline the major factors controlling the movement of groundwater,

* quantify such movement given appropriate well test or other data,

* outline the key characteristics of the major exploited aquifers within the UK

* demonstrate an understanding of the physical and chemical influences on the quality of groundwater resources and their vulnerability to contamination from human activities

* outline the variations of major elements in unpolluted waters as well as the sources and nature of key inorganic and organic pollutants,

* understand the principles of dispersion of pollutants in groundwater,

* appreciate the critical factors in the design of landfill waste disposal sites, particularly with regard to groundwater protection,

* quantify dispersion of pollutants given appropriate data


Physical Hydrogeology

[1] Introduction: definition, related disciplines, applications, aquifer properties.

[2] Fluid flow in aquifers: Darcy's Law.

[3] Fluid flow in aquifers: Flow Nets, Modelling Fluid Flow, Numerical Methods.

[4] Aquifer properties and their determination from pump tests.

[5] British aquifers: key characteristics of important aquifers.

Chemical Hydrogeology

[6] Groundwater chemistry: natural controls and variability.

[7] Groundwater pollution: nature of pollutants as chemicals; sources and behaviour.

[8] Chemical dispersion: patterns, processes and prediction.

[9] Disposal of waste by landfill: landfill site design and aquifer protection.

[10] Landfill leachates: chemical evolution and gas generation.

Assessment methods



2 hour practical examination in May (40 % of marks).

1.5 hour written examination in May/June (60 % of marks).


All learning outcomes may be assessed by each assessment method but to varying degrees depending upon the assessment method, in particular:

(i) the practical examination will focus substantively more on assessing quantitative applications of theory;

(ii) the written examination will focus substantively more on assessing understanding of theory




Feedback on practicals and presentations will be made during practical classes.

Feedback on all formal assessment will be made via Blackboard and/or through a centrally arranged class feedback session.


Feedback methods


Feedback on practicals and presentations will be made during practical classes.

Feedback on all formal assessment will be made via Blackboard and/or through a centrally arranged class feedback session.

Recommended reading

Appelo, C.A.J. & Postma, D. (1993) Geochemistry, groundwater and pollution. Balkema, Rotterdam, 536pp. [Especially chapters 1, 2 & 9]

Price, M. (1995).  Introducing Groundwater. Chapman and Hall, London, 195pp.

Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy

Domenico, P.A. & Schwartz, F.W. (1990).  Physical & Chemical Hydrogeology.  Wiley, New York, 824pp. [Especially chapters 3,4,7-9, 11-15]

And research papers as recommended during the course including: Benner et al. (2008) Applied Geochemistry 23, 3072-3087; Burgess, WG et al. (2010) Nature Geoscience 3, 83-87; Charlet, L. and Polya, D.A. (2006) Elements, 2, 91-96; Harvey et al. (2002) Science 208 1602-1606; Polya, D.A. and Charlet, L. (2009) Nature Geoscience, 2, 383-384.


UK Groundwater Forum



This course-unit description was reviewed and updated (DAP) on 24 April 2015

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 70

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Polya Unit coordinator

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