The First Potentiometric Map

Alain Dassargues, Okke Batelaan, Annick Anceau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


Nowadays, potentiometric maps are commonly used by hydrogeologists. They contain information from which can be deduced, among others, groundwater flow direction and hydraulic conductivity variations. In most hydrogeological studies that deal with groundwater flow, the potentiometric head is the main variable of the problem. In the historical development of hydrogeology, published and documented potentiometric maps appeared in the second half of the 19th century (Daubrée 1887). During this period, important developments were made, which allowed quantification of groundwater resources. In Europe, these advances are related to the increasing problems encountered by most of the big and mid-sized cities to provide clean water to the growing population (Daubrée 1887).

Darcy's law, published in 1856 (Darcy 1856), can be considered the starting point of quantitative hydrogeology. However, the actual progress in hydrogeology, at the time, primarily resulted from scientific and technological innovations induced by two determining factors: first, the mining operations (mostly linked to coal exploitation) reached deeper zones and required complex drainage/pumping works; second, providing safe and sufficient water supply in cities brought geologists and engineers together, and from their cross-experiences, new ideas and quantification methods emerged. In this international and regional context, it appears that the first (known) published potentiometric map was drawn by Gustave Dumont in 1856 in Liège (Belgium). This map, although referenced by Prinz (1919), Meinzer (1934) and Parker (1986), has been largely forgotten but is older than other works of the same nature generally mentioned in the groundwater literature (Delesse 1862; Lucas 1874; Gümbel 1875; Thiem 1876; Darton 1909).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)772-779
Number of pages8
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Hydrogeology
  • Groundwater flow
  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Potentiometric head


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