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Unit information: Hydrogeology and Contaminant Transport in 2015/16

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Unit name Hydrogeology and Contaminant Transport
Unit code EASC30046
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Whitaker
Open unit status Not open

The material on this course ranges from descriptive to theoretical. To cope with the theory you need to be at ease with algebraic manipulations of equations and with basic calculus (i.e. Can you differentiate a polynomial and do you understand the meaning of the function you thereby obtain?). Anything that goes beyond this level will be introduced carefully during the course before being applied to fluid flow.



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit covers the principles of fluid, mass and energy transport operating at the land surface and within geologic formations, and applications of these principles to water resource issues, including water supply and contamination of surface and ground waters. Adopting a quantitative approach, the unit provides a thorough treatment of both the theoretical background of the science as well as practical approaches to investigation of surface and subsurface hydrology and contamination. The unit adopts a problem-based approach to learning, including a field investigation into methodologies of stream flow gauging and aquifer characterisation and computer modelling of contaminant transport using the industry standard code MODFLOW.

The unit includes a compulsory fieldwork element. Failure to attend the field trip, unless valid documentation is presented, will result in loss of credit points for the unit and may lead to a requirement to withdraw from the degree programme.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:

  • describe and explain, both phenomenologically and mathematically, the key subsurface properties which determine storage and flow of groundwater (porosity, permeability and compressibility) and give expected ranges
  • interpret and critically evaluate maps of hydraulic head and predict rate and direction of groundwater flow
  • describe, manipulate and solve equations of fluid flow in 3D
  • understand key differences between fluid flow in single-phase and multiple fluid phases
  • interpret data from well tests to determine key aquifer properties or predict well yield and evaluate the significance of the values you obtain
  • describe, manipulate and solve equations of solute diffusion and dispersion in 3D
  • predict the rate of transport of contaminants with and without retardation.
  • model contaminant transport in 3D using the industry standard code MODFLOW.
  • plan, manage and execute a contaminant project involving liaison with professional bodies.

This unit draws upon the skills and knowledge gained in Year 1 on water resources and from Year 2 units in Sedimentology.

Teaching details

Lectures and practicals

Assessment Details

This 20 credit point unit is assessed by closed examination (50%, 3 hours) in January, and coursework (50%). Coursework will comprise a MODFLOW project (80% of coursework mark) and a field-based project (20%).

Reading and References

  • Fetter C.W. Applied Hydrogeology,
  • Fetter C.W. Contaminant Hydrogeology
  • Domenico P.A. and Schwartz, F.W. Physical and Chemical Hydrogeology
  • MODFLOW Packages Reference Manual and Visual MODFLOW User's Manual.