Bucketfuls of stones and water

Geomorphology and Groundwater
March 7, 1997

The book arises from a joint meeting between the British Geomorphological Research Group and the Hydrogeology Research Group of the Geological Society which was held in London in 1993. The meeting was organised around three themes: the identification, mapping and exploitation of aquifers in Pleistocene sediments; surface water-groundwater interactions, and groundwater and landforms. Papers from all three areas appear in the book, which consists of ten chapters and 213 pages. Interestingly only two of the chapters are written by single contributors.

The relationship between geomorphology and groundwater is certainly a neglected aspect of the field of sciences and so a book on this topic is particularly welcome at this time. In the past there has been a tendency for groundwater research in geomorphology to concentrate on limestone terrains. That this book takes a broader approach is especially encouraging.

However, many people reading the book will be disappointed that few real overviews of the individual topics are provided. Instead what is found are case studies in each of the chapters, with little linkage between the contributions. Case studies of this nature do provide lots of information about the specific sites covered, but with this book one is often left wondering as to what degree some of these results are capable of providing conclusions which can be applied in a general sense. This is, of course, always a difficulty with edited works which are generated from the proceedings of conferences. What it also means is that this is not a book to sit down with and read from cover to cover, but rather one to utilise as a reference work when insights into a particular groundwater topic are required.

The first chapter entitled "Geomorphology and groundwater: convergence and diversification", concentrates on examining the linkages between groundwater and surface water. It is broad in approach and attempts to provide a framework into which the succeeding chapters can be placed. In this it succeeds as it is well written and stimulating to read. It includes a good balance of ideas and facts and examines the major issues involved in groundwater research. As such it provides an ideal introduction to the later contributions.

The chapters which follow cover such a disparate range of topics that it is difficult to categorise them. In terms of spatial coverage there are four chapters on the United Kingdom, one on Germany, two from Africa and one each from Bangladesh and Australia respectively. With regard to subject speciality, three papers deal with groundwater in river and floodplain situations and three cover karst and pseudokarst conditions. The remainder are of a more general nature.

In studies of this type it is always difficult to pick out individual chapters for specific comment as such choice often reflects the particular interests of the reviewer as much as the intrinsic value of a particular study. However, the chapter "Assessing river-aquifer interactions within the hyporheic zone" is worth singling out as it admirably sets its case study, on the River Glen in Lincolnshire, within the wider context of streams and their interaction with groundwater. This means that a reader with little specialist knowledge of the topic feels on reading the chapter that he or she at least understands the major issues involved in the work.

Where the book would undoubtedly have benefited would have been by the inclusion of a concluding chapter which attempted to draw the themes of the individual studies together and to point out to the reader where further research was necessary. As it is, at the moment, having finished the final chapter one is left with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction that more is not to come.

Despite this criticism the overall impression gained from the book is a very positive one. In many of the chapters the quality of the research work is of a high order and the material is presented in a clear and attractive manner. It will provide extremely useful reference material for undergraduates and postgraduates with backgrounds in geology, physical geography and the environmental sciences.

Peter Beaumont is professor of geography, University of Wales, Lampeter.

Geomorphology and Groundwater

Editor - A. G. Brown
ISBN - 0 471 95754 2
Publisher - John Wiley & Sons
Price - £45.00
Pages - 213

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