Jiang et al. (2020) Flowing wells and history of groundwater hydrology

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Jiang, X.-W., Cherry, J., and Wan, L.: Flowing wells: terminology, history and role in the evolution of groundwater science, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 24, 6001–6019, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-24-6001-2020, 2020.


The gushing of water from flowing wells attracted public attention and scientific curiosity as early as the 17th century, but little attention has been paid to the influence of flowing wells on the evolution of groundwater science. This study asserts that questions posed by flowing wells since the early 19th century led to the birth of many fundamental concepts and principles of physical hydrogeology. Due to the widespread occurrence of flowing wells in basins with regional aquitards, there is a long-lasting misconception that flowing wells could only occur in regionally confined aquifers. However, the recognition of possible occurrence of flowing wells in unconfined aquifers was anticipated at the turn of the 20th century based on observed increases in hydraulic head with depth in topographic lows of basins without apparent aquitards. This was later verified in the 1960s by field and modeling studies that gave birth to quantitative analysis of topographically driven groundwater flow systems, which was a paradigm shift in hydrogeology. Following this paradigm, several preconditions for flowing wells established in the 19th century were found unnecessary. Intermingled in the evolution of flow system concepts are inconsistencies and confusion concerning the use of the term “artesian”, so we propose avoidance of this term. This historical perspective of the causes of flowing well conditions and the influence of flowing wells on groundwater science could lead to a deeper understanding of the evolution of groundwater science and guide future studies on hydraulics of flowing wells.



Free view available at https://hess.copernicus.org/articles/24/6001/2020/