South-Central Section - 47th Annual Meeting (4-5 April 2013)

Paper No. 31-4
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


GORDON, Jessica D., The City of Austin Watershed Protection Department, 505 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704,

It is important to recognize how our actions affect water quantity and quality, but it can be a challenge for people to visualize and understand complex aquifer and watershed dynamics. Hydrogeology models can enable learners to directly observe how groundcovers (e.g., concrete, soil, and plants) and geologic features (e.g., caves, faults, fractures, and sinkholes) influence surface runoff and groundwater recharge and how pollution travels through creeks, rivers, and aquifers.

The models presented in this session are inexpensive, easy to make, and can be used with any grade level (K-graduate) for quick demonstrations or long-term research projects. Students can use these models to conduct a large variety of experiments: test the porosity and permeability of different substrates, observe how water enters karst aquifers, compare the acidity of water before and after it travels through limestone, investigate how groundcover or slope affects runoff and recharge, and design ways to prevent or reduce soil erosion and mitigate flooding hazards. These models can be incorporated into larger projects that involve field experiences (e.g., to caves, springs, and streams) and service-learning to engage students in learning about local environmental issues relevant to their daily lives.

Central Texas is considered the flashflood capital of the world. The Balcones Escarpment is prone to flooding due to its geographic location and its rich geologic history. Pollution in the recharge zone can quickly enter the Edwards Aquifer. Rapid development in this region results in the transformation of vegetated areas to impervious cover, which escalates flash flooding problems and negatively impacts the quantity and quality of our water resources. These models can help students understand factors that affect flash flooding, pollution, and over-allocation of our water resources to consider how we can alleviate these problems.

As Captain Geo would say, we must assemble a story. Conducting experiments with these models can help students put together the pieces of the puzzle to see the big picture of the relevance of Geoscience in their lives and how their actions affect water resources. For more information about Geoscience Education resources for Central Texas, see