Jean-Baptiste Paramelle : method, results, and contribution to hydrogeology
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This study consists of three parts: a translation of Paramelle’s 1856 The Art of Finding Springs; a synthesis of Paramelle’s method, as set out in the book; and an application of his observational method to two karst areas of Texas. Paramelle’s book is a compilation of the observations and experiences gained during 40 years of exploring for water in 40 of France’s departments. Paramelle’s observational method was a scientific advance over water finding methods used in the early 19th century. The breadth and details of Paramelle’s observations are summarized in the second part. Paramelle found shallow water in karst areas by locating the thalweg, the location of focused groundwater flow, and he maintained that beneath every surface thalweg was an underground thalweg. Shallow water could be found in small valleys where the thalweg was easily visible on the surface. Water is abundant where a thalweg joins a stream. He calculated the amount of groundwater present by the size of the recharge area, an area of permeable rock overlying an impermeable layer. He observed the swallet-resurgence connection, the disappearance of a stream into the streambed and its reappearance downstream. Paramelle noted that aligned sinkholes overlay underground conduits and caverns. In part three, Paramelle’s observations are applied to two karst areas of Texas, New Braunfels and the Stockton Plateau. In the New Braunfels area, wells located within 200 m of subsidence areas (coalesced sinkholes) have higher yields than wells located farther from these features. On the Stockton Plateau, the presence of springs in recesses confirms Paramelle’s observations that shallow water is present in small valleys, at permeability contrasts, and downgradient of recharge areas of sufficient size. Paramelle’s scientific observation of rock units and water occurrence provided water for many towns and farms in the 19th century and greatly promoted the use and popularity of groundwater in France. His success in using the observational method is a reminder of the importance of paying attention to observations, especially when they do not support established theories.