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August 29, 2001

Gift pumps resources into hydrogeology program

The applied hydrogeology program at California State University, Sacramento is on its way to becoming the most comprehensive in the state thanks to a $400,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation.

The grant will enhance the department's new graduate program in particular, helping to attract high-quality students from the professional community and other undergraduate programs. It will fund expanded field facilities, advanced geophysics equipment and a new groundwater modeling lab.

CSUS students already have access to the largest on-campus water well field in the country which boasts three observation wells and an extraction well. Part of the grant funds will go toward making it even better. "The current campus set-up allows faculty and students to address a limited type of problem, namely groundwater problems that are similar to those here in the valley," says hydrogeology professor Dave Evans. "This will allow us to fill in the missing pieces."

The expansion includes adding two wells to the current well field - a 215-foot monitoring well and a 50-foot shallow extraction well with a pump - and installing additional wells in a more complex geologic environment, namely fractured rock located near Sierra College in Rocklin.

"We're sort of limited in the campus well field because the current wells are so close together," Evans says. "We'll expand the well field make it similar to the scale that students will encounter as professionals."

Evans says they will also install four new 400-foot wells in crystalline bedrock on the Sierra College campus, a very different geologic setting than the CSUS campus and similar to most of Northern California, where groundwater exists in fractures within shallow bedrock. Most hydrogeology programs aren't designed to teach students how to analyze the complex hydrology found in this type of setting.

"It will give us probably the best teaching well field in the country, giving students access to the most comprehensive field experience they can get anywhere," Evans says.

The grant will also allow the department to:

· Purchase state-of-the-art borehole geophysical equipment which students can use to test and characterize the subsurface geology. This type of data collection and analysis, long used in the oil industry, will become increasingly important as water resources become scarce.

· Expand the University's W.M. Keck Foundation Laboratory for Hydrogeologic Studies into a groundwater modeling lab. Computers at each station will allow students to run groundwater modeling software and make quantitative predictions about water supply and water quality.

· Expand the on-campus well field facility with a small building where faculty and students can stage field experiments and analyze field data as it is acquired.

"One of the things we do best is applied science," Evans says. "This will give us great facilities to provide a top-notch hydrogeology program."

Drilling on the well fields will begin this winter and they could be ready for use as early as the end of spring. The new lab should be ready next summer. Some of the new equipment will go into the new facility while the rest will be mounted on a field vehicle, providing a mobile lab to take to the well sites.

More information is available by contacting the CSUS public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.


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