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The science dealing with the occurrence of surface and ground water, its utilization, and its functions in modifying the earth, primarily by erosion and deposition.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the science of underground waters; it studies their composition and properties, origin, laws of distribution and movement, and interrelationship with rocks. Hydrogeology is closely linked with hydrology, geology (including engineering geology), meteorology, geochemistry, geophysics, and other earth sciences; it relies on the data of mathematics, physics, and chemistry, and it makes extensive use of their research methods.

Historical survey. Begun in the most ancient times, the accumulation of practical knowledge about underground waters was accelerated when cities and irrigation agriculture appeared. The skill of constructing excavated wells at depths of several dozen meters was known in the second or third millennium B.C. in Egypt, Middle Asia, India, China, and other countries. There is information about the use of mineral waters for therapeutic purposes during this same period. In the first millennium B.C. there appeared the beginnings of scientific notions concerning the properties of natural waters, their origin, the conditions under which they accumulate, and the hydrologic cycle on earth (for example, in ancient Greece—Thales, seventh and sixth centuries B.C., and Aristotle, fourth century B.C.; in ancient Rome—Lucretius and Vitruvius, first century B.C.). The study of underground waters was facilitated by the expansion of operations connected with water supply, the construction of piping and capping installations (for example, kiarizy [nearly horizontal underground water-collecting galleries] in the Caucasus and Middle Asia), and the extraction of salt water for evaporating out salt by means of excavating wells and later by drilling (on the territory of Russia, 12th-17th centuries). Concepts arose concerning nonpressurized waters, pressurized waters (rising upward from below), and waters that poured forth by themselves. During the 12th century waters that poured forth by themselves became known as artesian wells (from the province of Artois in France). During the Renaissance and later, underground waters and their role in natural processes were the subjects of works by Western European scientists, such as Agrícola, Palissy, and Steno. In Russia the first scientific ideas concerning underground waters as natural solutions, their formation through the infiltration of atmospheric precipitation, and the geological activity of underground waters were stated by M. V. Lomonosov in his work On the Earth’s Layers (1763). At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, principles of the distribution of ground waters were discovered (V. V. Dokuchaev and P. V. Ototskii) and a map was drawn up, showing the groundwater zones in the European part of Russia. Until the middle of the 19th century the study of underground waters developed as a component part of geology. Subsequently it became a separate discipline which itself later became more and more differentiated. In the formation of hydrogeology as a separate discipline important roles were played by the French engineers A. Darcy, J. Dupuis, and Chézy; the German scientists E. Prinz, K. Keilhack, and H. Höfer; the American scientists A. Hazen, C. Slichter, O. Meinzer, and A. Lane; and the Russian geologists S. P. Nikitin and I. V. Mushketov. A large role in the development of hydrogeology in Russia was played by the systematic geological survey carried out by the Geological Committee. After the Great October Socialist Revolution hydrogeological studies attained a broad scope. The study of underground waters took on a systematic character, a network of hydrogeological institutions was created, and the training of hydrogeological specialists was organized. Industrialization of the country provided an impetus for developing hydrogeological studies in order to establish centralized water supply for new cities, large plants, and factories. During the ensuing years Soviet hydrogeology was transformed into a varied field of geological knowledge in which numerous branches began to develop: general hydrogeology; the dynamics of underground waters; the study of the regimen and balance of underground waters; hydrogeological chemistry; the study of mineral, industrial, and thermal waters; the study of prospecting for and analyzing underground waters; reclamation hydrogeology; the hydrogeology of mineral deposits; and regional hydrogeology.

General hydrogeology. The origin of underground waters, their physical and chemical properties, and their interrelationship with water-permeable rocks is the subject of study of general hydrogeology. Scientific work has been contributed to this field of hydrogeology by such Soviet scientists as A. F. Lebedev, A. N. Buneev, and V. I. Vernadskii; the Austrian geologist E. Suess; the US scientist A. Lane; and the German hydrogeologist H. Höfer. Study of underground waters in connection with the history of tectonic movements and the processes of the accumulation of precipitation and diagenesis has made it possible to approach an explanation of the history of their formation and has facilitated the rise during the 1930’s and 1940’s of a new branch of general hydrogeology—paleohydrogeology (the study of underground waters of past geological ages).

The dynamics of underground waters. The study of the dynamics of underground waters under the influence of natural and artificial factors constitutes a branch of hydrogeology; this branch also develops methods of quantitatively estimating the productivity of operating drillholes and of supplies of underground waters. An important role in developing the theory of the dynamics of underground waters was played in the USSR by such scientists as N. E. Zhukovskii, N. N. Pavlovskii, and G. N. Kamenskii, and in foreign countries by J. Dupuis and A. Darcy (France), A. Thiel (Germany), P. Forchheimer (Austria) and C. Slich-ter, C. V. Theis, M. Muskat, and R. Dewiest (USA).

The study of the regimen and balance of underground waters. This branch of hydrogeology examines changes in underground waters (their level, temperature, chemical composition, conditions of supply and movement) that take place under the influence of various natural factors (such as atmospheric precipitation and the conditions under which it infiltrates and evaporates, temperature and humidity of the air and of the soil layer, and the effect brought about by the regimen of surface bodies of water and rivers) as well as human activity (the construction of dams, reservoirs, and collecting basins and drainage or irrigation). Russian scientists who have worked in this field include A. V. Lebedev, A. A. Konopliantsev, and M. M. Krylov; the American scientist O. Meinzer and others have also contributed to this field. During the second half of the 20th century methods began to be developed for the purpose of forecasting the regimen of underground waters; this forecasting is of great practical importance in the use of underground waters, hydraulic engineering construction, irrigation agriculture, and the solution of other problems.

Hydrogeological chemistry. The processes of formation of the chemical composition of underground waters and the principles of migration of chemical elements in them is the subject of study of hydrogeological chemistry. Its theoretical premises have been built up on present-day conceptions of the structure of natural waters; on the widespread dispersion of chemical elements in the earth’s crust and in rocks; on the concept of clarkes; factors of the migration, accumulation, precipitation, and dispersion of various elements and their isotopes in natural waters; and the gaseous composition of underground waters. The foundations of hydrogeological chemistry were laid down by the works of V. I. Vernadskii during the 1930’s, and this branch of hydrogeology took shape in the 1940’s. Major contributions to its development were made by such Soviet scientists as A. N. Buneev, O. A. Alekin, and V. A. Sulin.

During the 1950’s radiation hydrogeology—the study of the migration of radioactive elements in underground waters— became important as an independent science (the works of A. P. Vinogradov, A. N. Tokarev, and A. V. Shcherbakov).

The study of mineral, industrial, and thermal waters. The study of mineral waters examines the chemical composition and origin of mineral waters, classifies them into basic genetic types, gives an idea of the occurrence and resources of mineral waters, and solves problems of their practical utilization (primarily for therapeutic purposes at health resorts and sanatoriums). The study and use of mineral waters have been elucidated in the works of A. N. Ogil’vi, N. N. Slavianov, N. I. Tolstikhin, A. M. Ovchinnikov, and V. V. Ivanov. Waters with a high content of various elements (such as iodine, bromine, boron, strontium, lithium, and radium), which have acquired the designation of industrial waters, are studied in order to extract these elements from them. The study of, prospecting for, and analysis of reserves of thermal and superheated waters are conducted in order to utilize them for heating cities and populated areas.

The study of, prospecting for, and analyzing of underground waters. This branch of hydrogeology develops methods for discovering resources of underground waters which are suitable for organizing a water-supply system, for irrigation, and for other practical purposes; it provides a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of such waters; it solves problems that arise during the construction of engineering installations, in drainage measures, and in irrigation. Methods of hydro-geological research connected with prospecting for and analyzing underground waters have been dealt with in works by A. I. Silin-Bekchurin, S. K. Abramov, M. E. Al’tovskii, N. A. Plotnikov, N. N. Bindeman, F. M. Bochever, and the French scientist G. Castany.

Reclamation hydrogeology. Reclamation hydrogeology develops methods for improving the hydrogeological conditions of territories to be drained or irrigated in order that they may be utilized most effectively for agriculture. Problems of reclamation hydrogeology (such as determining irrigation norms, supplying water to farm crops, forecasting the underground water regimen, and combating soil salinization) are of great importance for the extensive territory of the earth’s arid zone (the works of M. M. Krylov, N. N. Khodzhibaev, and others).

The hydrogeology of mineral deposits. The study of underground waters as applied to the problems of the geological and industrial evaluation of mineral deposits and their exploitation and development is the subject of study of this branch of hydrogeology. Two areas that are developing here are the hydrogeology of solid mineral deposits and the hydrogeology of petroleum and natural gas deposits; this division results from the specific differences in the methods of prospecting, exploiting, and extraction of these minerals (works by S. V. Troianskii, M. V. Syrovatko, N. I. Plotnikov, A. A. Saukov, and P. P. Klimentov). A further differentiated discipline is mining hydrogeology, which develops measures to combat underground waters.

Regional hydrogeology. The principles of the distribution of underground waters under natural conditions that differ depending on geological structures is the subject of study of regional hydrogeology. It grew out of hydrogeological mapping on varying scales (from 1:500,000 to 1:10,000), based on geological surveys. In addition to maps of specific regions, composite hydrogeological maps of the territory of the USSR have been made. Successes in the study of hydrogeology on the territory of the USSR have been achieved as the result of many years of research on the part of Russian and Soviet scientists, including S. N. Nikitin, N. F. Pogrebov, F. P. Savarenskii, A. N. Semikhatov, O. K. Lange, N. I. Tolstikhin, and I. K. Zaitsev. As a result of regional investigations, numerous general and specialized maps have been compiled; thus, in the USSR the Hydrogeological Maps of the USSR have been published on a scale of 1:2,500,000 (1959, 1964) and the Hydrochemical Map of the USSR on a scale of 1:5,000,000. In 1966, Hydrogeology of the USSR began to be published (in 45 volumes). On the basis of regional hydrogeology the study of horizontal and vertical zoning has been developed (P. V. Ototskii, V. S. Il’in, B. L. Lichkov, N. K. Ignatovich, and N. I. Tolstikhin).

A large role in developing hydrogeology in the USSR was played by the F. P. Savarenskii Laboratory for Hydro-geological Problems of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1940-50); now the foremost hydrogeological organizations include the All-Union Institute of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology, the Institute of Water Problems of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Institute of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology (in the city of Tashkent), the Hydrogeological Section of the All-Union Geological Institute, and the subdepartments of hydrogeology at higher educational institutions. Hydrogeological studies abroad are conducted by universities, scientific research organizations, the geological survey, and major firms that specialize in the area of water supply and irrigation.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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