Peter Riemersma,
Grand Valley State University


GEOhydrology is the study of groundwater and its physical and chemical interactions with the physical environment. The course will be focused on those geologic principles that govern the occurrence, movement and quality of groundwater, with an emphasis on those aspects important to environmental professionals.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

Course Content:

Geohydrology is an upper level geology elective taught every other year. It has a physical geology course pre-requisite and does not serve as a prerequisite for any other courses. Typically 80% of the students take the course as geology majors and the remainder as natural resource management majors. The three credit course does not have a lab.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to:

Synthesize water level data and construct a water table map or potentiometric map to determine groundwater flow directions at a site.

Select an appropriate drilling technology and propose a monitoring network to detect groundwater contamination at a new site.

Apply Darcy's Law to estimate/calculate groundwater velocities. Employ water budget equations to calculate changes in water levels (hydrologic cycle). Calculate water storage and release from unconfined and confined aquifers.

Predict the impact of different chemical and physical processes (diffusion, dispersion, sorption, biodegradation, DNAPL) on solute transport.

Apply skills in lithologic description and contouring to characterize site conditions at an actual contaminated site in Michigan by drawing geologic cross-sections, water table maps and contaminant plume maps that will be used to identify flow pathways and estimate groundwater travel times.

Use an understanding of groundwater – surface water interactions to explain observed changes in river and water levels in response to flooding, pumping and precipitation variability.

Select an appropriate drilling technology and design/develop/propose an effective monitoring network to detect groundwater contamination at a site.

Skill goals include improve writing and oral presentations, working in groups, critical reading of the literature, and improved quantitative ability. Attitudinal goals include increased awareness of subdisciplines in hydrogeology and increased student confidence in making interpretations given limited data.

Course Features:

The case study project is an opportunity for students to apply much of what they learned in the course. It also highlights how different interpretations can result from scientists even if they are working with the same data.

Course Philosophy:

In addition to exams and homework exercises, I have incorporated in-class activities, field work, oral presentation and case study projects into the course to supplement lecture because there is not a lab.


I grade homework assignments, presentations and use exams and project grades to assess student achievement.


Geohydrology Syllabus 2011 (Microsoft Word 365kB Apr19 13)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Fetter, C.W. 2001, Applied Hydrogeology, (4th ed). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- Hall, 598 p.
Coverage of content

no lab
not applicable

Recommended reading
Price, Michael, 1996, (2nd edition), Introducing Groundwater, Chapman and Hall (most recently reprinted by Nelson Thornes Ltd), 278 p.

References on Library Reserve
Deming, David, 2002, Introduction to Hydrogeology, Boston, McGraw- Hill, 468 p.
Dominico, P.A. and F.W. Schwartz, 1990, Physical and chemical hydrogeology, New York, Wiley, 824 p.
Freeze, R.A. and J.A. Cherry, 1979. Groundwater. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- Hall, 604 p.
Palmer, C.M. 1992, Principles of Contaminant Geology, Chelsea MI, Lewis Publishers 211 p.
Schwartz, F.W., 2003, Fundamentals of Ground Water, NY: Wiley, 583 p.
not really