War as a catalyst for change: groundwater studies in the Geological Survey of Great Britain before 1950 and the impact of two World Wars
John D. Mather, 2012. "War as a catalyst for change: groundwater studies in the Geological Survey of Great Britain before 1950 and the impact of two World Wars", Military Aspects of Hydrogeology, E. P. F. Rose, J. D. Mather
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In the early years of the Geological Survey, staff built up a considerable understanding of the movement of groundwater, and water supply memoirs were published from 1899. During World War I, one of the tasks of the Survey was to advise on the provision of water supplies. However, this emphasis did not continue when war ended, and it was not until the 1930s that interest in groundwater began to increase. An Inland Water Survey Committee was formed and the groundwater component of its work was entrusted to the Survey. A modest Water Unit was set up in 1937, staffed by members of Field Units on rotation, but limited progress was made. At the outbreak of World War II, attitudes changed and manpower was diverted to the systematic collection of groundwater data, published in a series of Wartime Pamphlets. At the end of the war, the Water Acts imposed significant obligations on the Survey and over the next five years the systematic collection and analysis of information became a professional operation. The Unit became a Department with its own permanent staff. The war acted as a catalyst highlighting problems and initiating action to the benefit of the water industry.
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This book, generated under the auspices of the Geological Society of London’s History of Geology and Hydrogeological Groups, contains 20 papers from authors in the UK, USA, Germany and Austria. Historically, it gives examples of the influence of groundwater on battlefield tactics and fortress construction; describes how groundwater was developed for water supply and overcome as an obstacle to military engineering and cross-country vehicular movement by both sides in World Wars I and II; and culminates with examples of the application of hydrogeology to site boreholes in recent conflicts, notably in Afghanistan. Examples of current research described include hydrological model development; the impact of variations in soil moisture on explosive threat detection and cross-country vehicle mobility; contamination arising from defence sites and its remediation; privatization of water supplies; and the equitable allocation of resources derived from an international transboundary aquifer.