Palaeowaters in Coastal Europe: evolution of groundwaters since the late Pleistocene

Edited by W.M. Edmunds & C.J. Milne: Published by The Geological Society in December 2001 as Geological Society Special Publication: SP 189: ISBN: 1- 86239- 086-X List price: 70.00 (GSL member price 35.00)

This book reports the work completed as the PALAEAUX project carried out by scientists from eight EU states and Switzerland as part of the Environment and Climate Programme (1994 -1998) funded the Fourth Framework Programme of the European Community for research, and is a fascinating read. The project involved the disciplines of hydrogeology, geochemistry, isotope hydrology and Quaternary studies to reconstruct the development of groundwater systems over the past 100 000 years. These systems were affected by the events of the last glacial cycle that seem to have had a more significant impact on freshwater groundwater resources in coastal aquifers than had been thought before.

One of the most important results of the studies in this research programme is the demonstration that fresh groundwater reserves that were recharged during the period of lowered sea levels are found to greater depths in some areas of Europe than was previously realized. Such groundwater resources are often of very high quality and are therefore of strategic importance for the water supplies in coastal areas where population fluctuations and the related demands for water are often seasonal. In view of their excellent quality the use of such waters warrants careful management and husbanding. Such things are difficult to achieve and it is sad to reflect that such pristine waters from the East Midlands Sherwood Sandstone aquifer are currently being used for evaporative cooling in at least a couple of power stations.

The book contains a total of seventeen papers all co-authored by the members of the research team. About half the papers describe conditions in specific aquifers in different countries. These include the Glatt Valley in Switzerland, which while an interesting paper stretches the definition of "coastal" in the books title. The remaining papers are devoted to the techniques used and developed during the project that are available to be applied elsewhere.

This collection of papers devoted to a single international research programme, are more cohesive than many similar publications that are usually based on presentations at a conference. Much of the credit must go to the two editors who both participated in the research programme and co-authored several of the papers. I recommend the book to all hydrogeologists and am confident that they will not only find the work of great interest in itself, but will also obtain from it a broader perspective in their understanding of the groundwater systems they study in their everyday work.

This review appeared in Geoscientist October 2003, Volume 13, No 10, page 19.

Copyright © Geological Society 2003

Eur Geol Eur Ing Professor F.C. Brassington BSc MSc CGeol FGS CEng MICE FCIWEM