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Groundwater - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Though groundwater may be out of sight, it is not necessarily out of mind and is vital to sustaining life on Earth. It is the world’s most extracted raw material, about 60% is used for agriculture and provides 25% to 40% of the world’s drinking water. In Southeast England up to 70% of the total public supply is derived from groundwater in the Chalk aquifer. Groundwater also provides much of the base flow to rivers, and sources recreational lakes and livestock water supplies.

However, groundwater is not always easily protected and is vulnerable to contamination from many years of industrialisation.  Globally we have witnessed human health and environmental impacts due to groundwater contamination. A well-known example is the civil action case in Woburn, Massachusetts where the community witnessed a high incidence of leukaemia linked with trichloroethylene contamination of the town's water supply by three local industries.

Furthermore, over the recent years we have seen changes in our climate patterns with more intense storms resulting in devastating impacts from groundwater flooding.  Groundwater also interferes with the engineering construction of underground infrastructure. The underground tunnel boring and construction of station boxes for Crossrail have required site-wide dewatering to lower the groundwater in the Chalk, allowing excavation into the overlying geological strata.

  • A video of the lecture will be available to watch online shortly.


Natalyn Ala (Atkins Limited and GSL Council Member)

Natalyn has 25 years experience as a consultant hydrogeologist advising on groundwater risks and liabilities associated with infrastructure, energy, oil & gas, industrial and land regeneration projects in the US, UK, Europe and Middle East. She is a Chartered Geologist and Scientist and has specific expertise in conceptualising complex ground models and conducting quantitative risk assessments and groundwater flow and contaminant transport numerical modelling. 

Natalyn has participated in international groundwater specialist delegations, steering groups and workshops and is a member of the London Geological Society Council and Secretary of the Professional Committee.  She has recently been involved in the design review of the groundwater assessment relating to the dewatering schemes and engineering designs associated with the Jeddah City Airport, HS2 and Crossrail. She has provided the technical review of site-specific risk assessments and remediation strategies for the London 2012 Olympic Park, and litigation advice regarding groundwater contamination resulting from the catastrophic Buncefield Depot explosion that occurred in 2006.

Groundwater - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Event Details

Date: 10 September 2014

Venue: The Geological Society, Burlington House, London

Speaker: Natalyn Ala (Atkins Limited and GSL Council Member)


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Naomi Newbold

The Geological Society
Burlington House
Piccadilly, London
United Kingdom

Tel: 020 7432 0981
Fax: 020 7494 0579