A hydrogeologist is a person who studies the ways that groundwater (hydro) moves through the soil and rock of the earth (geology). A similar profession, a hydrologist, is someone who studies surface water.
Water is an essential part of life on earth and is something that people, plants and animals need to survive. It is important that the limited amount of freshwater that exists on earth stays safe to drink and use for the many purposes we require in everyday life. Just think of the many ways you use water each day and throughout the year.
A hydrogeologist is the person who makes and uses laws to be sure we have clean groundwater supplies, similar to how an officer of the law uses laws to keep people safe. Hydrogeologists are also like doctors because they help people stay healthy. When people become sick from contaminated water, they help find the problem and solve it.
Here's what they might do on an average day:
- investigate ways to test water to be sure it is safe to drink
- check licenses of people who construct wells and supply water to others
- inspect and/or help locate wells for safe water supplies
- inspect the design and function of wells
- help people understand the interactions between soil and other geologic formations and groundwater
- study groundwater flow in different parts of the state
- write new laws to protect groundwater
- train others to protect groundwater
Hydrogeologists also oversee the cleanup of spills and contamination. Contaminants in groundwater move through soil and rock, sometimes causing people to become sick far from the source of contamination.
Groundwater contaminants can come from:
- natural mineral or chemical reactions in the earth
- air pollution (contaminants carried down into the soil or rock by rain soaking into the ground)
- insects and animals that get trapped in wells
- people's actions at home or businesses practices
- human and animal waste
- dumping or spilling harmful substances on the ground
Hydrogeologists also are like detectives and help solve contamination problems that are difficult to figure out. They will work with experts who specialize in geology, wastewater, water supply, waste management, soils and organizations that know how to clean up pollution or contamination. They may also help with designs for new facilities to help prevent future contamination.
In order to help keep our water supply in good condition, a person must know a lot about how water works with the earth. It is important to understand the relationships between the:
- water cycle
To become a hydrogeologist, you will need to graduate from a college or university with courses in hydrogeology and/or biological, chemical, environmental, and life sciences. A minimum of 30 geology credits and six hydrogeology credits are usually required.
When you drink your next glass of water, thank the water cycle and a hydrogeologist. You can help protect groundwater today by having a blue thumb.