Using spring water chemistry to understand groundwater inputs

Rebecca Frus, University of New Mexico

Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see

This page first made public: Jun 6, 2013


The assignment will begin with teaching proper water collection and use of equipment for hydrochemical field work. Once the class is familiar with sample collecting technques, the class takes a field trip to several springs within the Madera Limestone, Sandia Mountains New Mexico. Collecting waters and obtaining hydrochemical field parameters for each spring location as well as collecting groundwater from one well in the same aquifer. Returning to the lab and preparing and running samples for ion analysis.

Spring waters will then be compared to well water and average precipitation data available from the USGS. Geochemical modeling will then be completed to understand the proportion of aquifer, precipitation and possible deeply sourced waters found in the spring waters.

The outcomes include 1) teaching proper sampling techniques 2) proper preparation of samples for ion analysis 3) Geochemical modeling to understand mixing



This would be an upper level (300) undergraduate course in geochemistry or environmental sciences. Chemistry and hydrology would be required, but sampling techniques would be taught during this course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Field sampling and equipment management. Sample preparation for ion analysis. Geochemical modeling using Phreeqci and/or Geochemist WorkBench.

How the activity is situated in the course

The exercise would be a culminating project that would provide students with opportunity to work in groups and write a final project paper explaining the mixing proportion.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Hydrochemistry of spring waters. Hydrochemical field sampling techniques and sample analysis in hydrochemical lab.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Analysis of hydrochemical results and critical evaluation and comparison of model results

Other skills goals for this activity

Working with hydrochemical field equipment as well as lab equipment for titration and ion analysis. Geochemical modeling using Phreeqci and/or Geochemist WorkBench

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips


Hydrochemical results as well as geochemical modeling will provide details to assess if 1) samples were properly collected and dilutions prepared appropriately 2) geochemical modeling results have proper saturation indices and mixing proportions

References and Resources

New TTE Logo Small

Teaching in the Field resources from across Teach the Earth »

Key Resources:

Join the Community: or Search

Geochemistry resources from across Teach the Earth »

Geochemistry resources from Teach the Earth include:

Join the Community:

or Search

Hydrology/Hydrogeology resources from across Teach the Earth »

Water resources from across Teach the Earth »

Environmental Science resources from across Teach the Earth »