In our view, the predominant cause of many poor feasibility studies, irrational risk assessments, and failed remediations has been the lack of a sound understanding of the physical characteristics of the aquifer system. Specifically, we refer to the lack of attention to detailed, geologic descriptions of aquifer materials during drilling and the subsequent interpretation of the geologic factors that control the three-dimensional shapes of permeability fields. The environmental industry has generally underutilized the potential benefits of better prediction of aquifer geometries and, therefore, more cost-effective exploitation of geologic conditions. We urge a return to the roots of geologic practice that historically formed the basis for ground water investigations.
In this paper, we propose a retrograde and not entirely innovative method that is based on classical geologic principles. This method depends on the process of developing a detailed evaluation of the physical features of the aquifer skeleton. Hydrogeologic investigations must be based on detailed geologic descriptions and interpretations of complete sections of all boreholes to define stratigraphy and interpret depositional environments. In cases where structural features control ground water flow, detailed measurements of orientations and densities of fabric elements are essential. These interpretive tools provide the physical foundation that will support the remarkable equation-solvers (computer models) which have become so popular. We suggest that cost-effective solutions to problems of contaminant migration in flow systems that may be dominated by advective transport require better prediction of the spatial distribution of permeability fields between widely spaced data points. Better prediction can only be accomplished through refined geologic interpretations based on detailed and reliable field data.