The availability and quality of water resources, both on the surface and in aquifers, constrains habitability across the earth. Current climate models suggest that zones of water scarcity may increase in the coming century in tandem with a higher frequency and severity of droughts. These changes will put an increasing stress on groundwater reserves and motivates our interests in approaches for understanding, managing, and monitoring aquifers at both the local and regional scale. At Rice, we study the utilization of geophysics and remote sensing to track aquifer state and response to production and natural recharge. We have a particular interest in understanding aquifer storage and recovery processes and ways to optimize these approaches at scale using new sensing and modeling techniques.
Furthermore, we study water quality by combining mathematical modeling with direct measurements of major and trace element concentrations and isotopic ratios. Primarily, our work is focused on understanding the natural factors that govern water quality as these must be known in order to correctly diagnose any human impacts. Our techniques also help us to constrain hydrologic processes as different flow paths and flow rates of water can be inferred using geochemical tracers.
Hydrogeology and hydrogeophysics research at Rice is facilitated by EEPS-managed groundwater monitoring wells on campus. Many nearby rivers and bayous also serve as natural laboratories for the study of regional water quality issues.