Southwest Ohio – Ready to be hub of water research and technology

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

Our region is ready to be the hub of water knowledge and know-how.

Initiatives are under way in southwest Ohio to position our region as a leader in water research and technology development to help deal with world water challenges such as scarcity and contamination.

One of the newest initiatives, The University of Cincinnati’s CV Theis (pronounced Tice) Groundwater Observatory, is working to capitalize on our region’s most important natural resource – water – and the availability of local scientific talent.

Recently, the observatory was designated as part of The Worldwide Hydrobiogeochemical Observatory Network for Dynamic River Systems (WHONDRS). WHONDRS is a consortium of researchers and other interested parties that aims to understand how rivers and aquifers interact and how the interactions impact water quality and aquatic life.

Being part of WHONDRS “will increase (the observatory’s) visibility and utilization by researchers worldwide,” says Dr. David B. Nash, emeritus professor of the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Geology.

A technician works on the central pylon which stores and transmits data collected by sensors at the Theis observatory.

 

A Field Laboratory

Imagine if we could peer into the ground and watch water move from the river into the aquifer and vice versa. The Theis Groundwater Observatory, a field laboratory for studying water, lets scientists do just that.

The observatory is situated on the bank of the Great Miami River in western Hamilton County and is well equipped to monitor how the aquifer responds to changes in river flow. This research can lead to better understanding of:

  • How water movement into and out of the aquifer changes as the river rises and falls.
  • The impact of floods on water quality in the aquifer.
  • How contaminants from the river are filtered by the aquifer.
  • How bacterial processes degrade contaminants in the aquifer.

The knowledge that scientists gain at the observatory will enhance community efforts to protect the groundwater that is used for drinking water.

Since the observatory was dedicated in late 2017, the University of Cincinnati hired a faculty member with expertise in groundwater modeling. That person is now teaching a new undergraduate course using the data collected from the observatory.

Both undergraduate and graduate students have started working on projects at the observatory. In addition, water professionals from regional universities and businesses have visited the observatory and have discussed the possibility of collaborative research projects.

 

The observatory is sponsored by a collaboration of organizations including The Miami Conservancy District, the Duke Energy Foundation, Great Parks of Hamilton County, and the University of Cincinnati.