Hydrogeology in North America: past and future
This paper is a retrospective on the evolution of hydrogeology in North America over the past two centuries, and a brief speculation of its future. The history of hydrogeology is marked by developments in many different fields such as groundwater hydrology, soil mechanics, soil science, economic geology, petroleum engineering, structural geology, geochemistry, geophysics, marine geology, and more recently, ecology. The field has been enriched by the contributions of distinguished researchers from all these fields. At present, hydrogeology is in transition from a state of discovering new resources and exploiting them efficiently for maximum benefit, to one of judicious management of finite, interconnected resources that are vital for the sustenance of humans and other living things. The future of hydrogeology is likely to be dictated by the subtle balance with which the hydrological, erosional, and nutritional cycles function, and the decision of a technological society to either adapt to the constraints imposed by the balance, or to continue to exploit hydrogeological systems for maximum benefit. Although there is now a trend towards ecological and environmental awareness, human attitudes could change should large parts of the populated world be subjected to the stresses of droughts that last for many decades.