Careers in Geoscience: Hydrogeology
A hydrogeologist is a person who studies the ways that water (hydro) moves through the soil and rock of the earth (geology). They work for resource companies, government, in academia and as consultants and are responsible for applying their geological knowledge and mathematical principles to solve groundwater-related problems related to quantity, quality, availability and sustainability. They may be field orientated with an emphasis on drilling of bores, coordinating aquifer tests, sampling for water quality and installing and monitoring specialist logging equipment. They may be office based with an emphasis on numerical modelling, water quality analysis and data management.
The responsibilities of a hydrogeologist vary considerably according to the sector, employer and area of specialisation.
Typical duties include:
- Applying a knowledge of fundamental geology to develop an understanding of how the rock types (lithologies) and structure in an area impact on groundwater occurrence and movement
- Understanding and interpreting maps, geographical data, geophysical data, historical evidence and models to build up a picture of the groundwater regime and/or land contamination, often based on incomplete information
- Using computers to model groundwater flow, chemistry, temperature and other physical properties influenced by geology/structure, surface water flow and man-made influence
- Undertaking field work and site visits for investigative and monitoring purposes
- Designing and commissioning boreholes, and sampling and measuring groundwater and surface water
- Undertaking environment impact assessments of groundwater abstraction and management activities
- Analysing collected information to assess and predict the impact of activities such as landfills, construction developments, mining or agriculture on groundwater quality and resource availability
- Liaising with other hydrogeologists, hydrologists, geophysicists, ecologists, engineers and other professionals in related fields
- Ensuring compliance with environmental legislation and keeping up to date with technological and legislative developments
- Writing reports for clients, which can be understood by people who don't necessarily have a technical background
- Answering technical queries and providing advice to clients and the public in writing and presentations to clients, litigants and stakeholder groups
- Managing projects and contractors
- Working within occupational health and safety guidelines
- Working ethically.
The job carries a high level of responsibility as the hydrogeologist must provide concise assessment upon which the viability of resource and other projects may depend, through groundwater resource impacts on both the project and the environment and through water quantity and quality impacts. Consequently, appropriate training is an important feature of the job as well as a sound understanding of the hydrological cycle e.g. interaction between groundwater and surface water systems.
Typical skills required are:
- Knowledge of a range of disciplines (hydrogeochemistry, groundwater hydraulics, geophysics, structural geology, sedimentology, well construction etc.) and their relevance to groundwater plus those related to hydrology, agriculture, pumping technology and environment
- Sound geological skills including geological mapping, rock recognition, structural geology, knowledge of geochemistry and geophysics and GIS
- Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
- Good organisational skills
- Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data
- Good written and verbal communication skills.