88274 - Protection and Contamination of Groundwater Resources

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Clean water and sanitation Sustainable cities Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to impart knowledge about the importance and physical distribution of groundwater resources at the global scale with a special emphasis on how groundwater affects ecosystems and how groundwater is impacted by antropogenic drivers or climate change. The discussion focuses on the knowledge of the functionality of groundwater flow systems, how they react to precipitation and temperature regime from the local to the regional scales. Methods for the groundwater quantitative and qualitative assessment and for evaluation of the interactions between groundwater discharge and ecosystems value and state are presented and discussed. The role of groundwater for ecosystem functioning is discussed along with the relation between groundwater, climate change and management of extreme events (drought consequent to water resources overdrafting or climate change). Main concepts of sanitary risk assessment derived from groundwater contamination are presented. Main aspect of characterization and remediation of contaminated aquifers are discussed, concerning either natural or man derived pollution. The course is interated by laboratory training on the field.

Course contents

The course is divided in two modules.

Module 1: Groundwater and climate change.

1) Introduction to groundwater and groundwater flow systems. The connections between atmosphere, surface water and groundwater. The groundwater budget.

2) Hydrogeological and ecological classification of springs. Spring monitoring and karst springs

3) Groundwater dependent ecosystems. Environmental flow and base flow in streams. Ecological services provided by groundwater and springs.

4) The effects of climate change on groundwater flow systems.

5) The effects of overdrafting of groundwater resources.

6) Integrated management of surface and ground waters. Managing artificial recharge

7) Social, cultural and ecological value of groundwater resources and springs.

Module 2: Contaminant hydrogeology

8) Natural or man-made origin contaminants able to induce impairment of soil and groundwater quality. Inorganic and organic contaminants (heavy metals, hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, emerging organic contaminants).

9) The properties, mobility, toxicity and cancerogenicity of contaminants of soil and groundwater. Modalities of migration of contaminants in unsaturated zone and groundwater.

10) Sanitary and ecological risk.

11) Contaminated sites. Human health and ecological issues posed by contaminated sites.Monitoring natural attenuation. Phytoscreening

12) Protection of well-heads and springs from contamination.


Lessons of the teacher downloadable from the university web site https://iol.unibo.it/ .

The material will be available the day preceding the lesson.

The materials provided by the teacher, along with the notes of the lessons taken by the students, are considered adequate for the preparation of the exam

Following textbooks are recommended as the best tutorials for groundwater up to now available for students

A.Freeze - J. Cherry - Groundwater. Prentice Hall

C.W. Fetter - Applied Hydrogeology. Waveland Press

Teaching methods

Theoretycal lessons in classroom. Group exercises about simple hydrogeological applications

Practical demonstration on the field of hydrogeological monitoring and characterization 

As concerns the teaching methods of this course unit, all students must attend Module 1, 2 [https://www.unibo.it/en/services-and-opportunities/health-and-assistance/health-and-safety/online-course-on-health-and-safety-in-study-and-internship-areas] online, while Module 3 on health and safety is to be attended in class. Information about Module 3 attendance schedule is available on the website of your degree programme

Assessment methods

The exam is based upon a multiple-choice/open answer written test.

The test is based upon 15 questions

The votation, expressed in 30/30 quote, will be as follows:

15 on 15 correct answers: 30 with laude

14 on 15 correct answers: 30

13 on 15 correct answers: 29

12 on 15 right answers: 28

11 on 15 right answers: 27

10 on 15 right answers: 26

9 on 15 right answers: 25

8 on 15 right answers: 24

7 on 15 right answers: 23

6 on 15 right answers: 22

5 on 15 right answers: 21

4 on 15 right answers: 20

3 on 15 right answers: 19

2 on 15 right answers: 18

Less than 2 correct answers: Failed

The student can refuse the votation only once


Teaching tools

Videoprojector, PC, blackboard, demonstration of the use of instruments (in the lab and on the field).

Office hours

See the website of Alessandro Gargini