Teach the Earth > Urban Geology > Teaching Activities > Plume Delineation Exercise

Plume Delineation Exercise

Steven Lev
Towson University
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Students are given a data set and base map for a potentially contaminated aquifer and are asked to create a plume delineation map and determine if there is a contaminant source, where it is and who is being most affected by the plume.

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Undergraduate course in Environmental Geology 300-level and graduate course in Environmental Science Integrates geophysics into a core course in geology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic groundwater flow (Darcy's Law), concept of contour maps, physical properties of common groundwater contaminants (VOCs, SVOCs)

How the activity is situated in the course

Stand alone exercise that is a lead up to a more extensive comprehensive site investigation exercise


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will use their knowledge of groundwater flow and contaminant properties to delineate the extent of a groundwater contaminant plume from well data. The will also make a judgment as to any potential health risk based on the plume and drinking water wells.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students must integrate several pieces of information, generate a model and make predictions based on their model.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students develop their drafting skills while developing their final plume maps.

Description of the activity/assignment

This exercise is designed to develop students ability to synthesize subsurface data and develop a model to explain a local groundwater contamination issue. Based on their groundwater model, they will make predictions as to location of the source area and the location of any potential human health risk. The exercise requires basic contour mapping skill, simple mathematical problem solving skills and a knowledge of Darcy's Law. Has minimal/no quantitative component

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are evaluated based on the accuracy of their plume map and their ability to use Darcy's Law to evaluate how long the contaminants have been in the aquifer.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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