The objective of the present paper is to show that groundwater is a general geologic agent. This perception could not, and did not, evolve until the system nature of basinal groundwater flow and its properties, geometries, and controlling factors became recognized and understood through the 1960s and 1970s.
The two fundamental causes for groundwater's active role in nature are its ability to interact with the ambient environment and the systematized spatial distribution of its flow. Interaction and flow occur simultaneously at all scales of space and time, although at correspondingly varying rates and intensities. Thus, effects of groundwater flow are created from the land surface to the greatest depths of the porous parts of the Earth's crust, and from a day's length through geologic times. Three main types of interaction between groundwater and environment are identified in this paper, with several special processes for each one, namely: (1) Chemical interaction, with processes of dissolution, hydration, hydrolysis, oxidation-reduction, attack by acids, chemical precipitation, base exchange, sulfate reduction, concentration, and ultrafiltration or osmosis; (2) Physical interaction, with processes of lubrication and pore-pressure modification; and (3) Kinetic interaction, with the transport processes of water, aqueous and nonaqueous matter, and heat. Owing to the transporting ability and spatial patterns of basinal flow, the effects of interaction are cumulative and distributed according to the geometries of the flow systems.
The number and diversity of natural phenomena that are generated by groundwater flow are almost unlimited, due to the fact that the relatively few basic types are modified by some or all of the three components of the hydrogeologic environment: topography, geology, and climate. The six basic groups into which manifestations of groundwater flow have been divided are: (1) Hydrology and hydraulics; (2) Chemistry and mineralogy; (3) Vegetation; (4) Soil and rock mechanics; (5) Geomorphology; and (6) Transport and accumulation. Based on such a diversity of effects and manifestations, it is concluded that groundwater is a general geologic agent.