Research: Water Cycle Science

Water is fundamental to sustain life on Earth and it is continuously cycling through the Earth's system which includes land, atmosphere, and ocean. Evaporation, precipitation, surface and groundwater flow, are all part of this cycle also known as the hydrological cycle. Water evaporates from the ocean to be transported by the atmosphere and to form clouds, and then precipitates back to land to be carried by surface and ground water flow back to the ocean. This continuous cycling of water through the Earth's system also involves transport and exchanges of energy and thus water helps regulate Earth's climate and its variability.

Water interacts with Earth materials and living beings and alters its chemical and biological quality. Quality of available water resources is equally important in order to provide safe drinking water to growing populations. Future projections by the United Nations indicate that during the next few decades water supply and water quality will deteriorate due to various factors that include population growth, economic development, and climate change. Climate change effects include more severe droughts and flood events, which will further intensify water scarcity and contamination.

To address these challenges, our water cycle research focuses on topics that include:

  1. Applied hydrogeology and geomorphology with emphasis on water quality and source water protection
  2. Surface hydrology and sediment transport processes with applications to flood control
  3. Interdisciplinary studies of climate change impacts on the hydrological cycle from local to global scales, using field-based observations/measurements, remote sensing and modeling approaches
  4. Aqueous geochemistry and geomicrobiology to study biogeochemical cycling in natural and artificial water systems
  5. Groundwater flow and reactive transport modeling to understand fate and transport of geogenic and anthropogenic contaminants