Who Polluted Surface and Groundwater in This Place?

Stephen Reynolds
Arizona State University
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Students use water-well data and geology to determine which site caused groundwater and surface-water contamination.

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Introductory Physical Geology Course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How to contour data; relationship of the direction of groundwater flow to water-table contours; general understanding of permeability

How the activity is situated in the course

Done as in-class exercise or homework late in the semester, culminating the water-resources section of the course


Content/concepts goals for this activity

How we investigate groundwater contamination; flow directions of groundwater; relationship between groundwater and surface water; how contamination travels

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Experience with uncertainty and limited data in natural situations

Other skills goals for this activity

Plotting and contouring numeric (water-table elevation) data

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are provided with a 3D perspective of a virtual place, descriptions of geologic and cultural aspects, and a table with water-table elevations in groundwater and contaminant levels in water wells, springs, and rivers. Students use these data to contour water-table elevations, determine the direction of groundwater flow, and identify industrial sites that are likely sources of contamination. They then propose a remediation plan and identify water wells that are likely to remain uncontaminated in the future.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students must indicate the direction of groundwater flow and identify the likely sites of contamination.

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Supporting references/URLs

from Reynolds, S.J., Johnson, J.K., Kelly, M.M., Morin, P.M., and Carter C.M., 2008, Exploring Geology: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Dubuque, Iowa, p. 522-523.

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