OSU Professor Wins National Award for MRI-like Approach to Groundwater Research

OSU Professor Wins National Award for MRI-like Approach to Groundwater Research

Dr. Todd Halihan, professor in the Boone Pickens School of Geology (BPSoG) at Oklahoma State University, was recently awarded the Charles V. Theis Award by the American Institute of Hydrology (AIH) for his novel groundwater hydrology research.

“This award is the highest groundwater research award presented by the AIH and is similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but for groundwater research,” Halihan said. “Clean water has provided the biggest difference in human health over any other achievement and should be celebrated.”

Halihan believes his work caught the attention of AIH because it adopts the medical and energy industries’ practice of scanning patients before getting invasive.

“In the environmental industry, the go-to approach is to drill until you figure out an answer. This has repeatedly been proven to be ineffective,” Halihan said. “I focused my work on ‘scan first, then drill’ approaches.

“I’m the X-ray technician or the MRI guy for your environmental surgery, but instead of a broken leg, you need clean water or to clean up a contaminated site — I provide an image of the subsurface to target your surgery.”

Halihan explained that OSU has been the home of groundwater and subsurface fluid research since the BPSoG was founded and is bolstered by collaborations with the National Ground Water Association and a number of state businesses and organizations.

“With more than 98% of our available freshwater in the ground, groundwater has to be the focus of our efforts if you are going to sustain humanity,” Halihan said. “Most people only think about the water that they see, which leads to bad outcomes. Citizens and their leaders need to demand investment in groundwater rather than surface water as those projects tend to be expensive and counterproductive.”

AIH, which is headquartered in Sacramento, California, regularly recognizes individuals for accomplishments in the fields of groundwater, surface water, water quality and institute development. Halihan accepted his Theis Award at the American Water Resources Association conference in Seattle on Nov. 9. 

“To have Todd receive this award continues to confirm the outstanding quality and commitment of the professors in the BPSoG,” said Patty Walker, OSU geology alumna and retired chief geoscientist for ExxonMobil. 

“The respect and recognition that Todd is receiving from his peers in the hydrogeology community speaks to his position as a thought leader in the industry, his well-respected research, the quality of the students he educates and sends into the workforce, and his commitment to the mission of a land-grant university like Oklahoma State.”

To learn more about what OSU is doing in the field of groundwater, visit geology.okstate.edu and cas.okstate.edu/ngwa.