Water is a vital resource that Americans use abundantly in industry and agriculture. About 1,500 gallons of water are used to produce the hamburger, fries, and soft drink typical of a fast-food lunch. To produce the amount of finished steel in just one automobile requires 32,000 gallons of water. In addition to supplying the population with a basic sustenance, water resources are part of the very fabric of our economic and social systems.
A variety of physical scientists make up the group known as groundwater professionals. Geologists and geophysicists study the physical aspects and history of the earth. Increasingly, these scientists are becoming known as geo-scientists, a term that better describes their role in studying all physical aspects of the earth. They identify and examine surface rocks and buried rocks recovered by drilling, study information collected by satellites, conduct geologic surveys, and construct maps. They also analyze information collected through seismic prospecting, a process by which sound waves are bounced off deep buried rocks to determine the density of solids and to detect the presence of water, oil, or natural gas. Geophysicists are also playing an increasingly important role in cleaning up the environment. Many of these scientists design and monitor waste disposal sites, preserve water supplies, and reclaim contaminated land and water to comply with strict federal and state environmental regulations. Other earth and life scientists who work with geo-scientists are chemists and civil engineers, who are discussed elsewhere in this article.
Many groundwater professionals receive training in the field of hydrology. Hydrologists study the fundamental transport processes of water: evaporation, precipitation, stream flow, infiltration, and groundwater flow to be able to describe the location, quantity, and quality of water. They look for new sources of water for cities and agricultural and industrial areas. They work with engineers and other scientists to provide creative solutions to finding ways of extending water supplies. Their work may include investigating the feasibility of increasing water supplies by methods such as desalting ocean water, cloud seeding to increase rainfall, or capturing storm runoff for replenishing groundwater. Working with other environmental specialists, hydrologists help write environmental impact reports (EIRs), and advise policymakers on the best way to clean up polluted sites, safely dispose of any waste, and keep drinking water sources free of contaminants. Some hydrologists specialize in the study of water in just one part of the hydrological cycle limnologists (lakes); oceanographers (oceans); hydrometeorologists (atmosphere); glaciologists (glaciers); geomorphologists (land forms); geochemists (groundwater quality); and hydrogeologists (groundwater).
The minimal educational requirements for a groundwater professional is a bachelor of science degree in hydrology, geology, chemistry, civil engineering, or geophysics. Most large colleges and universities and many smaller colleges have one of more of these programs. There are, for example more than 500 colleges offering a degree in the geosciences. While a bachelor's degree is adequate to enter the field, most groundwater professionals have some type of advanced degree, and many colleges offer graduate degrees in the groundwater sciences. Because this field is developing rapidly in terms
- Environmental Engineer Waste Management Engineer
- Seismologist Soil Scientist Mineralogist
- Environmental Analyst of knowledge and technology, most professionals continue their education throughout their careers.
There are several certificate programs and some licensing requirements for groundwater professionals. About half of the states require geologists to be registered in order to practice geology in those states. The designation Professional Geologist (PG) is granted only after applicants pass a written examination and provide evidence of work experience and references to the state licensing board.
Registration as a Professional Geologist, Professional Hydrogeologist, or Professional Hydrologist is administered by the American Institute of Hydrology. The certification process requires applicants to hold a college degree in hydrology or a related field, demonstrate substantive work experience, including original investigations, furnish five letters of reference, and pass a written examination.
Groundwater professionals can also register as a Certified Groundwater Professional through the Association of Ground Water Scientists and Engineers. Applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree and have at least seven years of work experience. Explicit descriptions of qualifying work experience must be provided demonstrating initiative, decision making, and sound scientific and engineering judgment. Two review committees judge the applicants' qualifications and, while there is no examination, the selection process is very stringent, and many applicants are rejected. For further information on all of the above certificate programs contact the appropriate society. For information on state licensing requirements contact the state departments of geology.