How did my attendance at the meeting help me develop an understanding of environment and sustainability related issues?*
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up to go to the 2012 NGWA expo in Las Vegas.
I saw a Texas Auctioneer. I ate between a man who was “A Georgian by birth and a Republican by the grace of god” and a California man who represented the Orange Country water district. He was attending to accept a reward as his district had been moving off of imported water toward recycled water. I saw inflatable packer sales reps and bentonite sales reps and mud cleaning sales reps and I even won a most excellent book from a well screen sales rep**. I even saw a booth set up to give foot massages. I couldn’t walk ten feet without bumping into an aspiring or retiring water well drilling contractor. However, I was surrounded by folks who take very seriously the charge of preserving our groundwater resources and how safety is job one***.
I saw drillers who were concerned with their shallow <1000ft geothermal fracking operations may being lumped in with 8000 ft natural gas fracking operations. They voiced these concerns to a North Carolina department of Environmental and Natural Resources representative at the Hydraulic Fracturing-Regulatory Officials Panel.
I learned the NGWA is an old well driller association that is going though the process of broadening its membership horizion and engagement just like the Geology, Geography, and Atmospheric Sciences departments merged to form the Earth, Society, and the Environment department a while back. The organization is taking steps, but it has a ways to go. I saw an award ceremony that lauded international hydrogeolgists and academics and remediation efforts. I get their publication, Groundwater, that is dominated by academic publications. However, the expo floor is still mostly a well drillers trade show. The classes offered are largely well contractor continuing education. A hydrogeologist emailed me that they have never been to the expo because it conflicts with the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.
I learned that one of the most often mentioned difficulties that the well drillers have is finding good help. They were unable to relate what they referred to as a “video game generation.” They said that the younger generation doesn’t have the same work ethic that they grew up learning. They said they were having trouble finding acceptable employees and keeping acceptable employees after a training period. Then I read threads like these where Millennials are proudly stating their desires to travel and not get tied down by a mortgage. I am currently unsure of what conclusions to draw.
Finally, I learned that a solid understanding of geology is vital in the efforts to protect groundwater. Everything from the selection of well screen slot size to mixing drilling fluid to choosing the right drilling sand/bit and more depends on geology.
An Israeli hydrogeologist receiving an award said something to the extent of:
“Too often in academia are we solving problems that don’t exist in industry and too often in industry we have problems that are unknown at the academy.”
Cross posted at the NGWA forum.
*A requirement for my Vegas travel grant to get convention expenses reimbursed involves submitting a response to this question the director of my department.
**I want to get a shameless shoutout to Johnson Screens.
***A surprising discovery is how important lunch is to this mission. (h/t Roger E. Renner, Instructor of Mud Rotary Drilling)