Applied Hydrogeology

Online course

50 hours / 6 weeks

Dates: to be determined


This course is designed to provide students with a strong quantitative and conceptual understanding of groundwater flow, contaminant transport, well hydraulics, and site characterization methods. The course will begin with the basics of hydrogeology – porosity, permeability, and Darcy’s Law. From these foundational principles, the student will progress into content that applies to environmental consulting, water supply, and civil/geotechnical engineering problems. These skills would serve a geologist, engineer, or environmental scientist in any of the aforementioned disciplines, while also preparing the student for follow-on courses in groundwater modeling, aquifer test analysis, or modern site characterization methods.


Students who complete this course successfully will be able to:

  • Apply foundational hydrogeologic concepts to a specific site; using individual groundwater elevation measurements to assess advective groundwater flow direction and magnitude.
  • Visualize groundwater flow direction with three-point problems and potentiometric surface maps.
  • Determine hydraulic conductivity via laboratory tests, pump tests, slug tests, and grain-size distribution.
  • Characterize a contaminated site with various drilling, exploration, and high-resolution subsurface
  • Use site-specific data (hydraulic conductivity, groundwater elevation, topography, and
    recharge/discharge) to build a conceptual water budget.
  • Begin to understand how the conceptual water budget can be used to develop a numerical groundwater
    flow model.

Recommended Texts and Materials (Note: No textbooks besides the written course content are required, but if a student wants to pursue a career in hydrogeology, these texts are important to obtain)

    • Cherry, R.A. and J.A. Freeze, 1979. Groundwater, 1 st Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., New Jersey.
    • Fetter, C.W., 2001. Applied Hydrogeology, 4 th Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., New Jersey.
    • Driscoll, F.G., 2007. Groundwater & Wells, 3 rd Edition, edited by R.J. Sterrett, Smyth Co Inc., Minnesota.
    • Online content: – various spreadsheet solutions for

Limited places.

Module 1: The Water Cycle, Groundwater, and Aquifer Characteristics

  • – The Water Cycle, Recharge, Surface Water Interaction, and Evapotranspiration
  • – Why Groundwater is Important
  • – Aquifer Properties: Porosity, Hydraulic Head, Gradient, Hydraulic Conductivity, Intrinsic Permeability
  • – Conceptual Lesson: Confined and Unconfined Aquifers, Artesian Conditions, Recharge and Storage

Module 2: Darcy’s Law, Well Hydraulics, and Engineering Problems

  • – Darcy’s Law: The Flow/Gradient/Hydraulic Conductivity Relationship, Quantified
  • – Introduction to Water Wells: Drilling and Well Installation, Observation Wells, Pumping Wells, Well Design Based on Aquifer Conditions
  • – Well Hydraulics: Drawdown, Assumptions of Steady State, Transmissivity, Storativity, Theim Equation
  • – Aquifer Testing: Sustainable Well Yield, Determination of Transmissivity and Storativity, Single-Well and Multi-Well Tests
  • – Terzaghi’s Principle: Total Stress/Effective Stress/Pore Water Pressure Relationship, Quantified
  • – Lab Lesson: Process a Pump Test Data Set with the Theis (1935) Solution

Module 3: Groundwater Contamination and Transport

  • – Conceptual Site Model: Physical, Chemical, and Biological Processes that Control Contaminant Migration
  • – Types of Contaminants: Petroleum Contaminants, Chlorinated Contaminants, Nutrient (N & P) Pollution, Pesticides, Metals, Landfill Leachates, and Emerging Contaminants – will include select case studies
  • – Processes that Govern Contaminant Transport: Advection, Dispersion, Diffusion, Partitioning, Sorption, and Biogeochemically-Facilitated Processes
  • – Mythbusting Hydrodynamic Dispersion
  • – Equations for Advective Flux, Diffusive Flux, Tortuosity, and 1-D/2-D Mass Transport

Module 4: Conventional and Modern Site Characterization Methods

  • – Conceptual Site Model Revisited
  • – Conventional Site Assessment: Drilling, Sampling, Soil and Lithology Classification, and Groundwater Monitoring
  • – Modern Site Characterization: High-Resolution Tools (Optical and Laser NAPL-Sensing Methods, MIP, and In-Situ Permeability Testing Tools), Vertical Aquifer Profiling, and Real-Time Analytical Methods
  • – How to Use Modern and Conventional Approaches to Build a Mass Flux Based Conceptual Site Model

Module 5: Intro to Groundwater Modeling, Visualization, and Geostatistical Interpolation

  • – The Domenico Solution and other Computationally Efficient Analytical Solutions for Contaminant Transport
  • – The Finite Difference Method: Numerical Discretization and the Approximation of Groundwater/Surface Water Systems – MODFLOW
  • – Conceptual Site Model Revisited (Again): Boundary Conditions, Geologic Units, Recharge, and Other Model Inputs
  • – Potentiometric Surface and Plume Mapping Using Manual and Geostatistical Methods

Module 6: Review for Final Exam

Disclaimer: The instructor reserves the right to make modifications to this information throughout the semester.

Jason Esselburn

Jason Esselburn is a Hydrogeologist who has worked in environmental consulting, geotechnical engineering, and water supply disciplines since 2009. Prior to that he served as a Teaching Assistant for field and laboratory courses in Geology, Hydrology, Computer Science, and Geophysics while obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees. Recent consulting projects include technical litigation support for clients with significant contamination liabilities and the characterization and remediation of sites
impacted by chlorinated compounds, pesticides, hydrocarbons, and emerging contaminants (i.e. PFAS, 1,4-dioxane, etc.) for clients in the oilfield services, chemical/agrichemical, federal, and power utility sectors. Project deliverables have been successfully submitted through RCRA, CERCLA, TRRP, the USEPA CCR programs, as well as the voluntary compliance and underground storage tank programs of Ohio, New York, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Texas. He currently works for the world’s premier water well drilling company, providing municipal and industrial clients with well and pump systems that range in yield from 200 to 3,000 gallons per minute.


Conference Proceedings and Publications

Byer, Gregory B., Wayne E. Patterson, Jason D. Esselburn, and Ashley R. Schumacher. “Expedited Produced Water Delineation with Electromagnetics and Direct Push Technologies” presented at the Society of Exploration Geophysicists International Expo and Annual Meeting, September 2017.

Esselburn, Jason D., D. Scott Riegert, Bruce M. Henry, James W. Schuetz, and Carol J. Van Neste. “Enhanced In-Situ Anaerobic Bioremediation: Best Practices, Cost Performance, and Lessons Learned” presented at the Geological Society of America North-Central Section Meeting, April 2012.

Esselburn, Jason D., Robert W. Ritzi, David F. Dominic (2011). Porosity an Permeability in Ternary Sediment Mixtures. Ground Water. 49(3): 393-402.
Esselburn, Jason D. (2009). Porosity and Permeability in Ternary Sediment Mixtures. M.S. Thesis. Wright State University: U.S.A.

Van Horn, Stephen R., Jason D. Esselburn, Jason A. Tarbert. “Major-Ion Chemistry of Surface Water and Identification of Hydrogeochemical Processes in a Recovering Surface-Mined Watershed, The Wilds, Southeastern Ohio” presented at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, October 2007.

Esselburn, Jason D., Stephen R. Van Horn. “Ostracodes as Indicators of Hydrochemistry at a Reclaimed Surface Mine, The Wilds, Southeastern Ohio” presented at the Geological Society of America Southeastern Section Meeting, March 2007.

Within this virtual platform, students are in continuous contact with professor in a tailored way, solving questions together, and widening knowledge and acquiring new skills. Students can also interact with other students and professors through webinars and forums.

Plenty of content can be found in the Campus: eLearning material, videos, technical articles, manuals, complementary documentation, real examples and exercises.

Geologists, environmental scientists, or engineers who want to work in consulting, water supply, or civil/geotechnical engineering.

As evidence of knowledge gained throughout the course, a certificate will be issued from the Virtual platform. This certificate is based on the modern technology Blockchain, which increases security, prevents fraud, builds trust and ensures you’re ready for the future.

Employment with any large or small consulting company, federal or state agency, or private industrial entity who needs personnel who understand hydrogeology.

I have professional contacts at firms including AECOM, GHD, Arcadis, and Parsons; federal agencies including NASA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Army Environmental Command; industrial companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Baker Hughes, DuPont, Dow; and state agencies including the Ohio Geological Survey, Texas Water Development Board, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.


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Applied Hydrogeology

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