Skip to main content

What's in your water?: Assessing Groundwater Chemistry and Suitability


Problem Statement

There are several natural and anthropogenic factors that affect groundwater chemistry. The quality of water is one of the most important features that determines its usability for human needs, such as irrigation, drinking, and industrial. Distinguishing between the natural factors that influence groundwater chemistry is necessary to set up baseline information, which would then be useful to identify potential contamination issues.

Groundwater chemistry is usually reported through graphical representations, in the form of diagrams, such as Piper, Stiff and Gibbs. However, the basics of creating such diagrams and toolset to meaningfully interpret those are not readily available for students. Furthermore, students need a solid foundation of the individual components that make up the basis of water quality to determine whether it can be suitable for human needs.

Module Overview

The module provides an in-depth overview of the factors that govern groundwater chemistry, while equipping students with the tools to describe data through classic graphical tools. The learning activities and multiple choice check questions provided in the module use real data and examples from the field to help students to critically explore the foundations of groundwater quality analysis and assess suitability for human use.

Topics Covered

Physico-chemical parameters; major ion chemistry; charge balance; trace elements and heavy metals; sampling guidelines, Stiff Diagram, Piper Diagram, Gibbs Diagram, Drinking water assessment; Irrigation water assessment.


Basic knowledge of chemistry and groundwater geology is essential.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • check quality of given dataset using charge balance calculation
  • classify groundwater chemistry using physico-chemical parameters, major ions and trace elements
  • describe an appropriate groundwater sampling scheme using geological cross sections
  • identify hydrochemical facies through Stiff diagram, Piper trilinear diagram and Gibbs diagram
  • identify hydrochemical facies through Stiff diagram, Piper trilinear diagram and Gibbs diagram"

This will be accomplished through activities within each section. Results from each activity will be recorded in specified results templates. The results templates for each activity can be found at the beginning of each activity. The results templates are organized such that results from one activity can easily be used in successive activities.

Course Authors

Solution Keys

If you are an Instructor seeking the answer keys, please contact the course creators using your official University email account.

Target Audience

Junior/Senior students in Hydrogeology or Water Quality-related courses

Tools Needed

Computer with internet, Excel, Word

Expected Effort

The module developers estimate that this module will take between 8 to 10 hours to complete.

Recommended Citation

Arslan, S, and Paul, V.,  (2021) What's in your water?: Assessing Groundwater Chemistry and Suitability. HydroLearn.

  1. Course Export

    Export Link

    To customize this course for your own needs, export a copy and import into a new empty course inside Studio. Requires a HydroLearn instructor Studio account.

  2. Course Number

  3. Classes Start

  4. Estimated Effort

    8:00 to 10:00 hrs