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River to Reservoir: Geoscience to Engineering

CorbettThis book explores some of the cross-disciplinary area(s) involved in studying rivers and their sediments, and thus between the geosciences and engineering. That it is successful in doing so is a credit to the editors as much as the authors of the various papers.

The book operates, in effect, at three rather different scales in the four principal dimensions. It starts with what the editors call ‘architecture and properties’, moving from discussion of river basins and their changing structure(s) across periods and at continental scale, to methods of characterisation and detailed assessment of deposits from fluvial systems. The potential value and sense in using multi-source data to gain a fuller understanding of depositional structures etc should be obvious – nature has no reason to observe ‘our’ notional boundaries between the sciences, or science and engineering. Combining them in valid ways can be difficult, however, despite that. Here, in various papers and combinations, data from outcrop observation, drilling cores, gamma ray logs, mineralogy, aerial photographs, satellite images etc are brought together successfully to provide clearer pictures than might be achieved with one or more less complex datasets.

The papers covering modelling and simulation are generally good to very good. The authors of one fall into the old trap of expecting modelling outcomes to be perfect. While models are often complex they are, essentially, simplifications intended to enable better understanding and forecasting of processes. The explanations and examples of what can be achieved with modern modelling techniques, including statistical processes, are useful as well as interesting.

The final group of papers, on management, are again generally good to very good. The techniques discussed are potentially useful quite widely, in part at least because the examples are well chosen. One paper is rather weaker because a considerable proportion of it consists of detailed cost information extending over a couple of decades and across a large country.  The information is not supported by a map showing the locations of the areas and regions concerned, however, and no account seems to be taken of inflation during the period covered.

This is a good book, and the cross- and multi- disciplinary aims and aspects built into it work well. The boundaries (pseudo-boundaries?) induced by human thought modes, both between and within disciplines – i.e., between geology and engineering, and between the geosciences within geology – remain, of course, but are weakened by this publication, which is a useful move forward.

By Jeremy Joseph

River to Reservoir: Geoscience to Engineering Ed P W M Corbett et al, 2019. Published by: The Geological Society, London, UK. ISBN: 978-1-78620-431-8.  Hardback. 295 pp. List Price: £120. Fellows' Price: £60