The NGWA Experience with Education and Core Competencies for Groundwater Scientists and Engineers

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Kevin Brent McCray, National Groundwater Association, Columbus, OH, United States
Since 1988, the National Ground Water Association has formally supported recognition, through certification or some other means, of the unique qualifications necessary to perform hydrogeologic investigations. NGWA has believed reliance on professional engineers or individuals certified in an allied field without a determination as to their knowledge of groundwater science is not a justified position.

Observation today suggests a need remains for greater hydrogeologic awareness among those that may create infrastructure intrusions into the groundwater environment, such as those designing and installing large-scale installations of geothermal heating and cooling systems. NGWA has responded with development of hydrogeologic guidelines for such projects.

Also in partial response to the above named circumstances, the Association has begun development of an ANSI/NGWA standard defining the skills and competencies of groundwater personnel – from the trades to the science, and has explored the potential value of creating a career pathways guidance document for groundwater science professionals.

Historically, NGWA scientific members have resisted the idea of accreditation of academic geosciences programs, including those for hydrogeology, although such discussions continue to be raised from time to time by groups such as the Geological Society of America and the American Geosciences Institute. The resistance seems to have been born out of recognition of the multi-disciplinary reality of groundwater science.

NGWA funded research found that more than half of the respondents to a study of the business development practices for consulting groundwater professionals had been involved with groundwater issues for more than 20 years, and less than one percent had worked in the field for fewer than two years, raising the question of whether too few young people are being attracted to hydrogeology.

Some speculate the seemingly minor emphasis on Earth science education in the U.S. K-12 system may lead to (1) employers of ground water hydrologists finding, on average, fewer applicants; (2) applicants with less depth of training in ground water hydrology; (3) need for additional on-the-job training among entry level personnel; and (4) greater salaries of all hydrology professionals.