Encyclopedic Dictionary of Hydrogeology

Book Review Encyclopedic Dictionary of Hydrogeology by D.J. Poehls and Gregory J. Smith (2009) is published by Academic Press, an imprint of Elsevier (ISBN 978-0-12-558690-0).

Laura L. Sanders, Book Editor

Encyclopedic Dictionary of HydrogeologyThe Encyclopedic Dictionary of Hydrogeology by D.J. Poehls and Gregory J. Smith is a massive labor of love that is certain to become a valued reference for students, teachers, consultants, and researchers, both within the field of hydrogeology, and in allied fields where the need arises for knowledge of hydrogeological principles.

The book contains definitions of over 2000 terms, in alphabetical order, from abandoned well, the first term under the As on page 1, to the Z–R relationship (a National Weather Service method for estimating rainfall rates from radar reflectivity values) under the Zs on page 382. If we randomly pick the letter I for a test run, we find a representative suite of definitions. Some of them are single sentences (e.g., Infiltration: The process by which water enters the subsurface), most are short paragraphs (cf. Impermeable boundary, Intrinsic bioremediation, Ion exchange), and a few are a full page or longer (cf. Injection wells, Intrusion of salt water, Isohyetal method). Many (more than 340 throughout the book) are accompanied by figures, and others (more than 80) make use of accompanying tables.

The coverage is broad, encompassing both physical and chemical principles of hydrogeology and treating both theoretical and practical matters. The book features a full complement of terms used in groundwater resource development (including those associated with well drilling and geophysical logging), and a comparable coverage of terms associated with waste disposal, groundwater contamination and remedial engineering activities.

The definitions are not limited to hydrogeological terms alone; many terms from surface water hydrology, meteorology, physical chemistry, and geotechnical engineering, especially those with pertinence to groundwater studies, also are included. This interdisciplinary coverage should make the book attractive as a resource for geologists, hydrologists, geographers, engineers, soil scientists, environmental scientists, and perhaps even for lawyers and economists who find themselves wandering in hydrogeological thickets.

Coming up with self-standing definitions for hydrogeological concepts could not have been an easy task. Take hydraulic conductivity, for example. In a textbook, the authors would arrive at a definition for this term after first introducing the concepts of groundwater flow, groundwater velocity, Darcy's law, and so on. But in an alphabetized presentation, the definition in question must appear under the Hs, whereas the supporting ideas appear under the Gs and the Ds. Then there is the issue of differentiating between hydraulic conductivity and permeability (now separated by the 65 pages between the Hs and the Ps).

The authors have handled these ticklish issues by providing cross-references between all the pertinent terms. For the hydraulic conductivity entry, for example, the reader is directed to also check out Darcy's law, Permeability coefficient, Porosity, Hydraulic diffusivity, Permeameter, and Zone of saturation. The approach works moderately well, but some readers might find all the back-and-forthing a bit cumbersome.

I found in general that it was necessary to read three or four of the related cross-referenced definitions to get a satisfyingly full understanding of many of the concepts. Having said this, it must also be said that the insight and explanatory power shown in each individual definition is very professional, especially considering the wide breadth of the coverage.

The authors do not provide references to the original sources for each definition, noting in the preface that such an approach would have resulted in a multivolume treatise, rather than the highly concentrated single volume before us. I certainly concur with their decision in this regard. References are provided for the figures and tables, with the majority of the sources being well-known textbooks.

The amount of information presented in the book is truly staggering. The figures and tables alone represent a valuable all-in-one-place resource. And then as a bonus, the authors have included an 81-page appendix of conversion factors that commonly arise in hydrogeological studies, and a 21-page appendix on the physical and chemical properties of water. These tables are themselves worth the price of admission.

Source: Ground Water Volume 48, Issue 4, page 485, July/August 2010.
Book Review: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Hydrogeology.

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