Welcome to Hydro-ecstatic!
A year ago I hadn’t even heard of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech). The thought of applying to a graduate program was in its early stages. Fortunately, I was surrounded by some incredible influences that lit the fire that led to this amazing opportunity.
The Hydrology program at NMT is fantastic. How strange to be studying water in a region so lacking. Almost all of it is in the subsurface; even the mighty Rio Grande is but a trickling stream most days.
I grew up along the Jersey shore, where the boardwalk (and a real pizza joint) were never more than 20 minutes away. We straddled the line between swamps and beaches, in the part of the state where one would not argue the given moniker ‘Garden State’. Water was everywhere.
As is the case in so many places these day, most of that water was pretty nasty. Pesticides and herbicides flowed into and were deposited onto these once clear waters by the tons from the 1950s through the 1980s (and possibly beyond). Saltwater intrusion was a fear along the most heavily population shore towns. Well water usually tasted like sulfur or had the rusty appearance of iron.
In 1990 we moved to the soon-to-be sprawling suburbs of Washington, D.C.. With the tech-boom of the 90s came an enormous increase in population, and with it, all of the environmental issues one would expect. The emplacement of asphalt and concrete extending into the farmlands led to increased runoff. The runoff was enriched with nutrients leading to a rapid deterioration of the watershed, including one of the most infamous cases of environmental collapse in nation: the eutrophication, sedimentation, and overall biological disaster that is the Chesapeake Bay.
Living in St. Thomas brought to light groundwater contamination issues. So many hydrocarbons had leaked from deteriorating storage tanks and been poured onto the soil that you couldn’t even use the water to wash your hands in some places. Wells were contaminated up and down the tiny island.
Now I am here in the southwest. Cities like Phoenix, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and countless others continue to expand. Los Angeles and Las Vegas need more water. The farmers need more water. The endangered species need more water. What’s the answer? Who get’s first priority?
These problems exist everywhere in the U.S., and are exponentially more dire in many parts of the rest of the world. Globalization has made their problems ours, and vice versa. Hydrology and hydrogeology are becoming increasingly important fields. With the depletion of usable water and the need to examine alternative energy sources such as geothermal and hydropower, where will we get what we need? Even carbon sequestration is hydrogeology issue, and a very controversial one at that.
I hope the issues presented and hopefully debated here over the next few years will lead us to a better understanding of our relationship with water, the places in which we find it, and how we can better preserve what’s left.