Hydrogeologists study the distribution, flow and quality of water underground (as opposed to hydrologists who are primarily concerned with surface water). This involves:

  • Interpreting technical data and information from maps and historical documents to build a conceptual model of groundwater flow and quality.
  • Designing and completing an investigation, which may include environmental measurement and sampling or an ongoing monitoring regime, in order to confirm or develop the model.
  • Using modelling techniques to enable predictions to be made about future trends and impacts on groundwater flow and quality.

The work of a hydrogeologist ultimately leads to better management of natural resources or better protection of the groundwater.


Typical Work Activities

  • Applying a knowledge of fundamental geology to develop an understanding of how the rock types and structure in an area impact on groundwater occurrence and movement.
  • Understanding and interpreting maps, geographical 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 and temperature according to geological formations, 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/or predict the impact of activities such as landfills, construction developments, mining or agriculture on groundwater quality and resource availability.
  • Liaising with other hydrogeologists, hydrologists, 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 over the telephone.
  • Managing projects and contractors.
  • Working within health and safety guidelines.
  • Finding new water supplies for remote villages or refugee camps.
  • Siting new wells.
  • Testing water quality.
  • Protecting water supplies from pollution.
  • Decontaminating wells.


Technical Skills

  • An excellent level of numeracy.
  • Scientific knowledge across the range of disciplines.
  • Mathematical modelling skills.
  • The ability to visualise geology and conceptualise groundwater flow in three dimensions.
  • The ability to draw conclusions from incomplete information.
  • The ability to evaluate complex data.
  • Project management skills.
  • An organised and flexible approach to work.
  • Commercial awareness.
  • Teamworking skills.
  • Oral and written communication skills, including report writing.
  • It skills.

A driving licence is often a requirement.


Career Development

Many hydrogeologists choose to become chartered with a relevant professional body, most commonly the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) . Those with a geology degree may choose to follow the Geological Society  route to chartership. Obtaining chartered status demonstrates that you have a good level of experience and professionalism, as well as a commitment to the profession. You will need to show that you regularly undertake a range of continuing professional development (CPD) activities and have relevant experience at a specific level.

There are opportunities for a varied career within hydrogeology. Career progression is dependent on skills and ability, but can be fast within groundwater specialisms. It is possible to progress into team leader positions that involve making decisions about planning and use of resources, as well as managing people. Opportunity for technical progression is significant and leads to a specialist role, sharing knowledge and experience of a specific aspect of geoscience with colleagues.

Specialisms can include:

  • Groundwater resource evaluation and drinking water supply.
  • Contaminated land investigation and remediation.
  • Groundwater modelling and risk assessment.
  • Dewatering and groundwater engineering.

A small number of opportunities also exist in teaching and research in higher education institutions. Some hydrogeologists move careers into environmental policy development.

Hydrogeology is a relatively young science and growth is likely in some new areas. These include the exploitation of groundwater as a thermal regulator (ground source heating and cooling), the interaction of groundwater and surface water and its role in flooding, and the ecology of groundwater and hydroecology. Concerns about the impact of climate change on water availability and increased reliance on groundwater are likely to ensure that the need for hydrogeologists will continue.



Original content at prospects.ac.uk


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