- Author: Leigh Bernacchi
It's been a busy couple weeks for Andy Fisher, a hydrogeology professor at UC Santa Cruz. Two of his students presented research in Mexico while another finished his master's thesis and hurriedly returned to active duty with the Coast Guard. At the same time, Fisher prepared instruments for a new groundwater observatory in the Pajaro Valley and gave two presentations at an international groundwater and agriculture conference. If the reach of his program is any indication of intellectual stamina, Fisher never tires, particularly when it comes to preaching the possibilities of groundwater recharge.
Fisher's large body of work has had a big influence in the fields of hydrology and hydrogeology. For example, he coined the term “hydrologic system services” – the benefits provided by connected groundwater and surface water systems.
It is for his work in hydrogeology that Fisher is being awarded with the 2016 O.E. Meinzer Award from the Geological Society of America. The award's namesake worked with the U.S. Geological Survey for 34 years and has been called the "father of modern groundwater hydrology."
The award will be presented at the society's annual meeting in Denver, Colorado in September. The Meinzer award adds to Fisher's prior accolades – he has been a society fellow since 2006, and received the UC Santa Cruz Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012.
Dubbed “Mr. Recharge” by UC Water colleagues, Fisher is finding the best places to recharge groundwater, and helping to design, install, and test the performance of water augmentation systems. Fisher and his collaborators have evaluated subsurface and surface data to find conditions that are most suitable for recharge. They are also assisting in creating and verifying the performance of new recharge systems. By managing connections between surface waters and aquifers, Fisher helps to optimize groundwater recharge opportunities.
Groundwater is a critical source of freshwater in many parts of California. It is important for household use, ecosystem functioning, and agricultural production, especially during droughts. But, its use comes with a cost. Many groundwater aquifers, locally and globally, have been overdrawn – that's what makes groundwater recharge research like Fisher's so valuable.
In addition to the scientific rigor of Fisher's work, he excels at working within the constraints of what is possible in a complex and political world. Through conscientious development of relationships among farmers, water managers, and other communities, he has helped to create novel incentives for recharge. For example, he is working on a new net metering program that will help to offset operational costs of groundwater recharge.
Always at a sprint, quick to smile, and with the phrase “endeavor to persevere” emblazoned on his laboratory logo, Fisher will continue to inspire the next generation of water researchers while working with decision-makers and landowners to push the boundaries of practical science.
Guest post by Leigh Bernacchi, coordinator of the UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative.