Selected contributions to ground-water hydrology by C.V. Theis, and a review of his life and work

Water Supply Paper 2415
By: , and 
Edited by: Alfred Clebsch



This publication highlights two previously unpublished papers by C.V. Theis; each is augmented with a discussion that explains why he wrote the paper, attempts to discern why he did not publish the paper, and amplifies the information with reference material not included by Theis. 'A Primer on Anisotropy' was written in the early 1970's to provide practicing hydrogeologists of the day with a method of analyzing ground-water problems involving anisotropic hydraulic-conductivity distribution without using tensor mathematics. The equations were developed for horizontal flow through dipping beds with differing conductivities parallel and perpendicular to the bedding and for flow through dipping beds having three different hydraulic conductivities, one perpendicular to the bedding and two others parallel to the bedding, at an angle to the strike of the beds. Although most colleagues who reviewed the primer in the early 1970's encouraged its publication enthusiastically, at least one suggested the addition of some examples in which the method would be demonstrated. Handwritten notes from Theis' files indicate that he may have worked on some examples and possibly other additions to the paper. The comments by Charles A. Appel include some examples of the primer's use and augment the presentation with references to relevant published papers, both those available to Theis but not cited by him, and subsequent publications. 'Aquifers, Ground-Water Bodies, and Hydrophers' was written in the early 1980's as an attempt to clarify the semantic and conceptual confusion in the use of the term aquifer, applied by some investigators to the saturated part of a permeable formation and by others to the entire permeable formation. The physical distinction between the aquifer and the ground-water body is emphasized, and the term hydropher is proposed to describe the saturated part of a permeable formation. Theis' interest in and familiarity with the French literature on ground water was the basis for a discussion of the French usage, which eschews the term aquifer. The analysis and critique of Theis' palzler explains the 1835 paper from which aquifer was reportedly derived, and provides further justification for the term hydropher. Theis' more important contributions to ground-water hydrology were outgrowths of his solutions to small local water problems based on field investigations. The biographical sketch, drawing extensively from a partial autobiography that Theis had dictated, reveals both the reasons for and the intellectual processes that led to his development of the nonequilibrium concept of ground-water hydraulics. The sketch also describes the background of the man, reviews his career, and portrays the admiration and respect he elicited from his colleagues and associates. The magnitude of Theis' contribution to the science of ground-water hydrology, to the appraisal of the water resources of New Mexico, and to the early research on ground disposal of radioactive wastes is evident from the bibliography of his writings, which includes 168 reports, many of them unpublished. The evolution of his thinking about the role of geologic inhomogeneities in mass transport, conceptualized but not quantified, was the major contribution of the latter part of his career.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Selected contributions to ground-water hydrology by C.V. Theis, and a review of his life and work
Series title Water Supply Paper
Series number 2415
DOI 10.3133/wsp2415
Edition -
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office
Description vi, 70 p. :ill. ;28 cm.