Teach the Earth > Visualization > Teaching Activities > Graphic Groundwater

Graphic Groundwater

Laura Sanders
Northeastern Illinois University


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Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

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Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Develop student understanding of ground water flow.
  • Develop students' knowledge of how altering variables will affect the size of the wellhead protection area (e.g. increasing pumping rates, decreasing recharge due to drought, or manipulating river levels by using locks and dams).

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Description of the activity/assignment

Graphic Groundwater (GGW) is a graphical user-interface for the USGS ground water modeling code MODFLOW. It allows the user to start with a topographic map, build a model grid directly on the map, enter hydraulic properties into grid cells as one would into a spreadsheet, click on the grid to enter the positions of water wells, and (among other things) track imaginary "particles" that would flow into the well from the surrounding area. GGW was created by Steve Esling at Southern Illinois University/Carbondale.

Students delineate the area from which a well will draw recharge during a five-year period. It's a practical problem and one that allows them to put together geologic skills (reading maps, drawing cross sections) with hydrogeologic concepts (recharge area, ground water flow, hydraulic properties of earth materials) to produce something that would be meaningful to a community zoning or planning board. The students control the whole look and shape of the visualization and can alter variables at will to experiment with how each change affects ground water flow.

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