Geology 301: Hydrology

Welcome to GEOL-301: Hydrology!

Nick Bader, Spring 2020

Nick's office: Hall of Science 150

Office hours: Tuesdays 10 am - noon, Wednesdays 1:30 - 3:30 pm

Lectures: Mon/Wed/Fri 11 - 11:50 am, Hall of Science 111

Labs: Tuesdays 1 - 3:50 pm, Hall of Science 176 or 111

--- Log in to Canvas for additional resources ---

About this course

This is a class devoted to understanding water resources, including both surface water and groundwater. We will study the hydrologic cycle and the properties of water, the shape and behavior of streams, the recharge and movement of groundwater, and environmental management of water including wells, dams, irrigation, and water contaminants. Lab topics will include stream gauging and the construction of hydrographs and hyetographs, determining peak discharge, water sampling, flow nets, well tests, and computer modeling of groundwater and contaminant flow. Three lectures and one three-hour lab per week.


What will this class do for you? In this class, I hope you will:

  • Develop a "toolbox" of hydrologic techniques that will help you solve realistic problems in hydrology
  • Build an intuition for how water moves underground and aboveground, so that you can make plausible predictions about water in the landscape
  • Understand the importance of hydrology to humans, and how humans interact with water resources

Course structure

Each week, there will be three one-hour lectures and one three-hour laboratory period. In lecture I will introduce background and important concepts in hydrology and hydrogeology. In the lab we will apply these concepts in exercises or in the field. Labs are usually held in the GIS lab (Science 176), but for some activities not requiring a computer we may move to our regular lecture classroom.

Course materials

  • Required textbook: Hendriks, Martin. Introduction to Physical Hydrology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Required textbook: Leopold, Luna. A View of the River. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Additional readings are available at our Canvas page.

Field Trips

We will have a number of field trips in this class. Standard precautions regarding field trips apply: please wear reasonable shoes (I will leave the meaning of "reasonable" up to you), and bring things you might need, like sunscreen, a hat, water, garlic to repel vampires, etc. You will also want to bring a notebook and pencil so that you can take notes.


In our class, you will have daily short homework assignments. Whether you are very experienced with mathematics or you avoid it at all costs, doing these exercises will help you practice the habits of mind that will allow you to approach problems in the real world with confidence.

Perhaps you think that the purpose of this homework is to find the right answer. Nope. In fact, I generally tell you what the right answer is right in the problem. For example, rather than asking ``Given x, y, and t, what is the velocity?'' I might instead ask ``Given x, y, and t, show that the velocity is 3.0 m/s." To correctly answer this problem requires these steps:

  1. Carefully read the problem and make sure you understand the question.
  2. Determine the appropriate equation(s) to use.
  3. Algebraically rearrange the equation to isolate the quantity of interest.
  4. Plug in the appropriate values.
  5. Convert the units of the answer as appropriate.
  6. Round your answer to the appropriate number of decimal places, given the precision of your input values.
  7. Profit.

You can see that there is no advanced mathematics lurking here. Just as in the real world, what you most often need is nothing more than algebra. If you want a refresher on unit conversion and significant figures, I have posted a couple of resources. Also, while you don't need to be able to integrate or differentiate in order to do the homework, you may sometimes need to be able to read and understand calculus equations. There is a very short refresher on the two fundamental symbols of calculus posted with our shared documents.

Getting help

My official office hours this semester are listed in the table above. However, if you cannot make those times, please email me to set up an appointment. You may also ask questions by email; if I think that other students might share your question I will respond to the whole group.


I use a standard system for grading based on your percentage of total possible points:

97 - 100%: A+; 93 - 96%: A; 90 - 92%: A-

87 - 89%: B+; 83 - 86%: B; 80 - 82%: B-

77 - 79%: C+; 73 - 76%: C; 70 - 72%: C-

67 - 69%: D+; 63 - 66%: D; 60 - 62%: D-

< 60%: F

Exams (40% of the class grade)

There will be four exams, each worth an equal fraction of the course grade. Exams will primarily cover material from lecture, although material from the readings in the text can also appear on exams. The exams are generally not cumulative, except insofar as it is necessary to master earlier concepts in order to understand later concepts. The first three exams will be held during the lecture periods indicated on the course schedule; the fourth exam will be held during the final exam slot listed on our schedule below. This time is set by the registrar and is not negotiable. If circumstances beyond your control force you to miss an exam, please contact me ahead of time by phone, email, or in person to discuss it.

Lab exercises: (40% of the class grade)

I will provide the labs and readings and give you enough hydro background to complete each week's assignment. You are responsible for completing lab assignments if you run out of time during class. Generally, students finish their labs by the end of the lab time, but in case you need more time, all lab exercises and field trip summaries are due by the beginning of lab the following week. After the due date, you will lose five percentage points for each day the assignment is late, rounded up. For example, if you turn in your lab less than 24 hours late, your maximum score will be 95%; if you turn it in between one and two days late, your maximum score will be 90%, etc.

Homework exercises: (20% of the class grade)

As part of this class there will be regular homework assignments. My aim is to have lots of small assignments in order to keep you practicing the quantitative skills essential for hydrology. Unless otherwise noted, assignments will be due at the beginning of the next class. Because we will go over the homework at the beginning of class, assignments cannot be turned in late, but you are automatically excused from one missed assignment. If you miss class it is your responsibility to get the assignment from a classmate, and it is likewise your responsibility to get the assignment to me when it is due. You are welcome to work together but you must turn in your own work. In order to get full credit, you must follow the steps described above and clearly show your work. If you put in a reasonable effort but are unable to solve the problem, you will still get a solid "B", so it is absolutely worth turning in your best effort.

Attendance and participation

Because this is an upper-level course, I will assume that you are able to do the basics of participating in class: showing up on time, staying off of your phone in class, and staying present and engaged during class. For this reason, I do not have a mechanism to enforce your attendance or tardiness. It will be great if we can keep it this way. However, if it starts to seem that consistent problems with lateness or participation begin to disrupt class, I will reserve the right to introduce a participation grade and late policy. Regardless, there is no doubt that your attendance habits will affect your grade! The exams will cover materials discussed in lecture, not all of which can be found in the textbooks. If you have to miss class, you don't need to tell me about it, but you are responsible for getting the notes, homework, etc. I will always put unclaimed homework assignments in the pouch on my door, so you can pick one up of you missed class. Labs and field trips are important to your grade and sometimes cannot be made up. If some event beyond your control forces you to miss a lab, please let me know beforehand, even if it's a quick email.

Additional resources

If you are logged into your Whitman account, you should see a list of additional resources on Canvas. "Reference" contains pdf versions of the syllabus and course schedule (if the versions differ, this electronic version takes precedence) and a few reference documents as math refreshers. "Readings" contains pdfs of readings on the syllabus outside of your two main textbooks. "Outlines" will contain daily class notes; new class notes will always be added after the class is complete.

Calendar of events

View this calendar in other formats

If you use Google Calendar, you can view these events in your own calendar. Just click the button at the bottom right of the calendar. You will be offered access to two calendars; one called something like "Hydrology" with most of the course events, and a second calendar called "Bader - all classes" that includes office hours and special events such as guest speakers.

If you want a schedule suitable for printing, you may find a pdf in our resources on Canvas. Warning: our schedule may change during this semester, rendering the pdf version obsolete. The Google calendar will remain up-to-date and should be your primary reference.