UCL Earth Sciences


Hydrogeology Research

We research the combined influences of hydrogeological and geochemical processes on groundwater conditions, especially on the vulnerability of groundwater to contamination and/or depletion.

Groundwater is a global resource of fundamental significance. Seventy-five per cent of the world’s water supply is provided from groundwater. Many of the world’s regions and nations are close to 100% dependant on groundwater for water supply, including most of the world’s mega-cities, and the under-developed rural areas of Asia, Africa and South America. Also, groundwater is the world’s primary source for irrigation, crucial for global food security; and groundwater supports the springs, streams and rivers that underpin many ecologically significant wetland habitats. Hydrogeology is the study of the geological and hydrological processes that control groundwater flow and groundwater quality, and is therefore a primary component of any environmental geoscience programme. Hydrogeological research provides the scientific foundation for managing and protecting the world’s groundwater resources.

We research the combined influences of hydrogeological and geochemical processes on groundwater conditions, especially on the vulnerability of groundwater to contamination and/or depletion. Hence our research concerns groundwater flow, solute transport processes and geochemical reactions, and how these interact to control groundwater level, flux and quality. Within UCL we make use of the Earth Sciences facilities , contributing to the  London Geochemistry & Isotope Centre, to the Water Security theme of the UCL Environment Institute, and to the Natural Hazards theme of the UCL Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction. Externally, we collaborate with the Groundwater Science discipline of the British Geological Survey, and with academic and regulatory partners overseas, including in Bangladesh, India, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Arsenic in alluvial groundwater systems in the Bengal Basin

Since 1990, arsenic has been found to be present extensively in shallow groundwater across the densely populated floodplains of SE Asia, at concentrations many times the WHO guideline limit for drinking water. Throughout the region, shallow hand-pumped tubewells are used by the majority of the rural population

Deep groundwater in the Bengal Basin as a resource free of excessive arsenic

Deeper than about 150 m in the Bengal Basin, groundwater is mostly free of excessive arsenic, so installation of deep wells has become the most popular private and public mitigation response to the crisis and there are pressures for deep wells also to supply the enormous demand for irrigation of the dry-season rice crop

Fluoride in crystalline bedrock/regolith aquifers of India and Africa

More than 200 million people worldwide rely on groundwater-sourced drinking water with fluoride (F-) concentrations above the WHO guideline. We have researched the mineralogical sources of F in Arusha, Tanzania,

Limits to the sustainability of bedrock/regolith aquifers in southern Africa

Fourty per cent of sub-Saharan Africa is underlain by weathered and fractured ‘basement complex’ bedrock containing groundwater in its weathered regolith and rock fractures on which the rural population depends for its water supply. We are testing implications for the UN Millennium Development Goals of a reconnaissance analysis in Malawi which suggests basement complex groundwater resource is becoming limited

Contaminant solutes in the double-porosity Chalk aquifer of the UK

In south and east England the Chalk aquifer provides more than 75% of water for public supply, and supports wetlands, springs and downland streams. The Chalk is fractured and porous - the quintessential double porosity aquifer – and the quality of mobile groundwater in fractures is substantially moderated by diffusive exchange with porewater.



Group members

Academic staff

Prof Atkinson
Dr Burgess
Prof Taylor

Research staff

Dr Shamsudduha

Research students


Associated staff

Prof K.M. Ahmed, Dhaka University
Prof S. Cairncross, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr. G. Chavula, University of Malawi
M. Lewis, British Geological Survey
D. Mdimbu, University of Harare, Zimbabwe
Prof Abhijit Mukherjee, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
Dr. N. Robins, British Geological Survey
S. Sunguru, Zimbabwe National Water Authority
Dr. E. Valsami-Jones, Birmingham University
Dr. Anwar Zahid, Bangladesh Water Development Board

General Enquiries:

Prof. William Burgess
+44 (0)20 3108 6366