Who Polluted Surface and Groundwater in This Place?

Stephen Reynolds
Arizona State University
Author Profile

  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

    Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

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    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
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  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jul 16, 2008


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.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

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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