GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 90-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


BOBECK, Patricia, Geotechnical Translations, Austin, TX 78716

Henry Darcy and J.-B. Paramelle published major works in 1856, both on the topic of karst, before the word karst entered into French or English scientific vocabulary. Henry Darcy’s book The Public Fountains of the City of Dijon is an account of his study of a karst spring to determine its suitability to supply drinking water to the city of Dijon. Paramelle’s book The Art of Finding Springs is a how-to manual for finding groundwater, a skill he developed on the Causses du Quercy in the Department of Lot in southwestern France. The causses, or karst limestone plateaus lack surface water over large areas.

Paramelle explored the causses for 9 years to find and exploit groundwater and then worked as a “hydroscope” for 20 years observing lithology, stratigraphy, and geomorphology to find groundwater in 40 of France’s 90 departments. His contributions to karst hydrogeology include observations that streams disappear underground and reappear downstream, aligned dolines in dry valleys mark out underground conduits, and surface valleys often overlie subsurface flow.

Darcy brought Rosoir Spring water to Dijon via a 12 km aqueduct and distributed 150 liters of water per inhabitant per day via 110 street fountains. As a result, Dijon became the rival of Rome in terms of water quality and quantity. Darcy’s fame far exceeds that of Paramelle today, primarily because of Appendix D of the book, which describes the sand column experiments that led to Darcy’s law, but in the 19th century Paramelle was famous throughout France for finding groundwater in 10,000 places, with 90% accuracy.

These contemporaneous and fundamental contributions to karst hydrogeology highlight the dual nature of the science, the engineering component that seeks to use physical laws to measure groundwater flow through heterogeneous rock, and the naturalistic observational analysis of lithology, morphology, and spatial relationships to find groundwater flow.