The goal of this course is to give the student a fundamental understanding of the principles and practical applications of groundwater occurrence and behaviour, such that the student will be able to interpret observations in a correct way, calculate and predict groundwater amounts and movement, design groundwater abstraction installations, determine the groundwater quality and possible pollution, and in general be able to manage groundwater in a safe and sustainable way. The theoretical principles of groundwater hydrology are thought in class by means of classical lectures, divided into 7 chapters covering the major subjects of the course, with emphasis on the fundamental physical and mathematical foundations. The practical applications consist of 7 exercise sessions corresponding to the different chapters of the course. The exercises are intended to reflect real world problems that students might encounter later in their professional careers, and which will enable to reflect on the applicability, usefulness and reliability of the theoretical aspects. The assignment is intended to bring students into contact with real world groundwater problems, practical applications and scientific developments, and to increase their awareness of groundwater vulnerability and sustainability in relation to human impact.
Students are supposed to have advanced mathematics, hydraulics and notions of geology.
Beginning conditions: Advanced mathematics in water resources engineering; Hydraulics; Introductory Geology
This course is taught at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Examples and samples
Toledo / e-platform
Order of Enrolment
This course unit is a prerequisite for taking the following course units:
I0D24A : Groundwater Modelling
I0S76A : Thesis Research Project Water Resources Engineering
I0S77A : Setting Up Research Project
I0S78A : Research Methods for Data Collection and Processing
Is also included in other courses
- Master in de bio-ingenieurswetenschappen: land- en bosbeheer (Major: Soil and Water) 120 ects.
- Master of Water Resources Engineering 120 ects.
- Master of Water Resources Engineering (abridged programme 60 ECTS) 60 ects.
- Fundamentals: groundwater and the hydrologic cycle, occurrence of underground water, basic properties of ground bearing layers: porosity, water content, groundwater potential, flux and velocity, Darcy's law, measurement techniques for groundwater potential and conductivity;
- Natural groundwater flow: hydro-geological classification of ground layers, aquifer types, groundwater flow systems, unsaturated zone, saturated groundwater flow and storage in artesian and phreatic aquifers and in aquitards, the hydraulic groundwater flow approach and the flow net theory;
- Groundwater flow equations and useful solutions: mass balance equation, general groundwater flow equation in three dimensions and boundary conditions, hydrostatics, unsaturated flow, saturated flow and water table boundary conditions, the horizontal flow approach, Dupuit equation;
- Groundwater abstraction techniques: advantages of groundwater use, abstraction techniques: wells and galleries, principles of well flow: drawdown, cone of depression, radius of influence, maximum and specific capacity, interference between wells and aquifer boundaries, design of well fields, safe yield and groundwater management;
- Pumping test analysis: practical aspects of pumping tests, analysis of pumping test in confined, semi-confined, phreatic aquifers and fractured rocks, analyses of recovery tests;
- Groundwater modelling: basics of finite difference techniques, finite difference solution for aquifer flow, basics of finite element techniques, finite element solution for aquifer flow, introduction to well known groundwater flow models; and
- Groundwater chemistry: groundwater chemical constituents and main processes, oxygen status and organic matter decay in unsaturated and saturated groundwater layers, mineral dissolution and ion evolution cycle, groundwater isotopes, groundwater pollution sources and major pollutants, measurement techniques and interpretation and classification of water types, groundwater quality assessment and protection techniques.
- Laboratory and fields measurement techniques: determination of porosity, water content, density, hydraulic conductivity and permeability of soil samples, field measurement techniques for determining hydraulic conductivity: interpretation of slug tests in auger holes and piezometers;
- Flow net analyses using piezometric data and field reconnaissance for hydro-geological mapping and interpretation; Analyses of groundwater flow and balance in confined and phreatic aquifers using piezometric readings and solutions of groundwater flow equations;
- Analyses and interpretation of drawdown around pumping wells and influence of well interference, aquifer boundaries, and induced recharge by rivers; Design of groundwater sustainable pumping wells and well fields; Analyses of pumping test experiments: application of graphical techniques for the Theis and Jacob methods, graphical interpretation technique for a recovery test; and
- Interpretation of groundwater chemical data: representation in Stiff and Piper diagrams, classification of water types and identification of chemical evolution, estimates of pollution spreading.
Literature and internet search and review of a well known groundwater problem as for instance the Woburn groundwater pollution case; the students are asked to prepare a term paper of less than 10 pages which is graded.
Description of learning activities
26 hrs/2 credits theory; 26 hrs/2 credits of practical work; 26 hrs/2 credits of assignment/guided self-study
The exam is open book. The students are tested on their insight in fundamental understanding of the theory and their ability to interpret and process information concerning groundwater occurrence and dynamics. The overall result is obtained as 1/2 on the exam, 1/3 on marks given for the exercises, and 1/6 for the homework assignment.