What I learned from Groundwater Week 2019

groundwater week

I attended the Groundwater Week conference in Las Vegas. I am new to the industry; my background is in computer software. My purpose was to learn and get guidance on the next steps I could take. If you experienced in this industry, then this list may sound rudimentary. However, the following fast/observations stuck with me. 

Business

• Irrigation is a large consumer of groundwater. I talked to a handful of contractors that inherited a family-owned drilling business. Most were primarily farmers and use drilling as secondary means. This leads me to believe that the groundwater industry may be apart of a horizontal business scheme involved in the production of crops.

• The people that perform the manual labor of drilling are known as the “contractors” in this industry, usually independent. I spoke to a driller, and he told me that it is not only farmers that requested wells, but also individual residents.  

• I received some career advice from a professor: If you don’t have any field experience, try focusing on research rather than service. Large government entities such as public, water, or environmental health can have Research and Developments branches that may have opportunities in data collection. 

• Water quality was an essential topic during Groundwater Week. Water remediation is the process of treating groundwater and removing harmful pollutants. The acronym PFAS refers to an industrial chemical found all over the environment as well as the human body. Yikes! 

• General conference advice is to talk to the presenter. Make it brief, and be specific with your questions.

Politics

• Water does not adhere to borders; however, politics does. What is done upstream impacts what is available downstream. The water industry is political, and policymakers cooperate on fair tributary use. 

• Hard to believe, but data centers owned by large tech firms such as Amazon are a large consumer of water. These “farms” use water as a means to cool down their servers, which are performing heavy computation. 

• The United States “owns” the Colorado river, which scaffolds onto Mexico. On the flipside, Mexico owns the Rio Grande watershed empties into Colorado state. Because of these shared supplies, the United States and Mexico had to sign a treaty in 1944

Science and Technology

• The official software offered by the USGS to model groundwater is called MODFLOW. It’s standardized and modular. Currently, the application is written in FORTRAN, but there are extensions in python. There is an open-source GitHub to where you can contribute.

• If you want to use or write code for MODFLOW, you must understand the Groundwater flow equation. Contributing to the MODFLOW software requires theoretical knowledge of physics. 

• I attended a workshop where we accessed an online archive named “GET, Ground Water Evolution Toolbox.” This online archive collects well models as well as aquifer recharge and irrigation usage information. GET is intended to unite groundwater managers. 

• The image below is a drilling truck. These trucks drill wells and bores into the ground. 

• The 100th meridian is a divide that can describe the climate. States on the left of the meridian tend to be arid, which means more drilling and relying on aquifers. 

Reflection 

There are more things that I’ve learned during the conference. This list is not comprehensive. As mentioned earlier, I come from a software development background. To be honest, I felt a little clueless.