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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-270
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-270
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  22 Jun 2020

22 Jun 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Flowing wells: history and role as a root of groundwater hydrology

Xiao-Wei Jiang1, John Cherry2, and Li Wan1 Xiao-Wei Jiang et al.
  • 1MOE (Ministry of Education) Key Laboratory of Groundwater Circulation and Evolution, China University of Geosciences, Beijing 100083, China
  • 2G360 Institute for Groundwater Research, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

Abstract. The spewing of groundwater in flowing wells is a phenomenon of interest to the public, but little attention has been paid to the role of flowing wells on the science of groundwater. This study reviews that answering to problems related to flowing wells since the early 19th century led to the birth of many fundamental concepts and principles of groundwater hydrology. The concepts stemmed from flowing wells in confined aquifers include permeability and compressibility, while the principles include Darcy's law, role of aquitards on flowing well conditions and the piston flow pattern, steady-state well hydraulics in confined aquifers, and transient well hydraulics towards constant-head wells in confined or leaky aquifers, all of which are applicable even if flowing well conditions have disappeared. Due to the widespread occurrence of aquitards, there is a long-lasting misconception that flowing wells must be geologically-controlled. The occurrence of flowing wells in topographic lows of unconfined aquifers was anticipated in 1940 and later verified in the 1960s, accompanying with the birth of the theory of topographically-driven groundwater flow, which has been considered as a paradigm shift in groundwater hydrology. Based on studies following this new paradigm, several preconditions of flowing wells given in the 19th century have been found to be not necessary at all. This historical perspective of the causes of flowing well conditions and the role of flowing wells on the science of groundwater could lead to a deeper understanding of the evolution of groundwater hydrology.

Xiao-Wei Jiang et al.

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Xiao-Wei Jiang et al.

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Short summary
The spewing of groundwater in flowing wells is a natural phenomenon of interest to the public. This review demonstrates that this spectacular phenomenon also instigated the science of groundwater and can be considered as a root of groundwater hydrology. Observations of flowing wells not only led to the foundation of many principles of traditional groundwater hydrology, but also played a vital role on the paradigm shift from piston flow pattern to topographically-driven groundwater flow.
The spewing of groundwater in flowing wells is a natural phenomenon of interest to the public....
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