INDUSTRIAL TOPOGRAPHY, GROUNDWATER, AND THE CONTOURS OF ENVIRONMENTAL KNOWLEDGE*

Authors

  • CRAIG E. COLTEN

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      Dr. Colten is an associate professor of geography at the Center for Environmental Geography and Hazards Research, Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas 78666.


  • *

    I would like to acknowledge the valuable research assistance provided by Daniel Haag and Sean Spanyer and to thank Adam Rome and anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on a previous draft of this article.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. Civil engineers have played a central role in reshaping the physical environment during the past two centuries. Their accomplishments were made possible in no small measure by an ability to assess local hydrologic conditions and design structures to withstand the forces of water. Recent assertions that engineers had little comprehension of groundwater processes until the 1970s prompted an analysis of the engineering literature to reconstruct the state of knowledge up to the 1950s. Textbooks and manuals demonstrated that knowledge developed in constructing transportation lines, in draining cities and farms, in creating sewers, dams, canals, and lagoons, and in erecting manufacturing facilities contributed to design with groundwater in mind. In practice, this knowledge was available and drawn on, but the success of its application was inconsistent.

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