Tracer Hydrology and Flow Systems Analysis

IHE Delft Hydrology

Target Audience

This course is meant for hydrolo(geo)logists with a proper understanding of environmental chemical processes, geology characteristics and groundwater flow phenomena.


In this course, participants will learn how to map recharge and discharge areas, how to combine flow field, hydrochemical data, and isotopic data into one comprehensive hydrological systems analysis.

The content of this short course consists of two parts: ‘Flow Systems Analysis’ and ‘Tracer Hydrology’.

1. Flow Systems Analysis
1.1 Introduction: definitions, use of Systems Analysis in practice, examples;
1.2 Characteristics of the natural flow field: Toth’s description of Groundwater Flow Systems;
1.3 Hydrochemical Facies Analysis: Defining the facies and classification of water types, indexes and temperature, identification of groundwater origin, mapping and interpretation;
1.4 Spreadsheet exercises and introduction to HYCA software.

2. Tracer Hydrology
This course treats different methods to analyse and assess hydrological flow systems. Special attention will be given to hydro-chemical and tracer hydrological approaches to delineate flow systems and understanding flow patterns in the environment. The use of tracer techniques will illustrate the determination of flow pathways, residence times of the water, the hydraulic properties of flow systems and the mixing of different water compartments.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
– apply knowledge of the concepts of tracer hydrology, with emphasis on environmental isotopes.
– derive and describe hydrosomes from (combinations of) hydrochemical facies to assess characteristics of groundwater flow systems.
– integrate geology, flow field, isotope data, and hydrochemistry into a comprehensive analysis of groundwater flow systems for different hydro-climatic regions and geological conditions.