Carnegie Mellon University


September 21, 2023

CEE Professor Fakhreddine Leads Path to Enhanced Aquifer Recharge Across the US

In a newly funded research initiative, CEE professor Sarah Fakhreddine, with researchers fromUT Austin, UC Davis, and the Groundwater Protection Council, spearheads efforts to enhance aquifer recharge practices and safeguard water quality across the United States. The team is looking to increase the adoption of Enhanced Aquifer Recharge (EAR) by shedding light on potential contaminant mobilization in crucial aquifers. This project can potentially reshape water resource management by focusing on geogenic and anthropogenic contaminants like metal(loid)s, nutrients, salts, and pesticides.

The project is part of nearly $8 million in funding across four institutions to research the use and risks of enhanced aquifer recharge (EAR) to improve groundwater availability and quality.

“As climate change and increasing demand diminishes groundwater availability, identifying innovative solutions for EAR is an important step in protecting our water resources,” said Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This research will provide the knowledge needed to help improve water supplies for communities experiencing increased intensity, frequency, and duration of drought and extreme heat.”

Professor Fakhreddine and her research collaborators are pursuing two primary objectives:

Geochemical Compatibility Assessment: A nationwide study is underway to evaluate the compatibility of diverse water sources, including excess surface water and treated wastewater, with co-located aquifers. This innovative approach aims to minimize the risk of contaminant mobilization during EAR.
Guidance for Safe EAR Implementation: The team is translating their findings into actionable EAR project planning, design, and operations guidelines. Their insights are expected to play a pivotal role in ensuring the preservation of water quality.

Leveraging a wealth of publicly available data, including resources from the EPA, USGS, and state databases, Professor Fakhreddine and her team are assessing the ambient geochemical conditions in productive aquifers nationwide. By integrating data on source water and groundwater quality, they are in the process of developing a geochemical compatibility score. This score will provide critical information regarding the safety of EAR implementation, particularly concerning contaminants such as arsenic, nitrate, manganese, and uranium.

This research endeavor promises to deliver quantitative insights into the risks associated with EAR, considering the influence of regional constraints and aquifer characteristics. Anticipated deliverables include a comprehensive technical report and guidance document enriched with illustrative case studies. These resources will be invaluable for water managers, regulatory authorities, and stakeholders. Additionally, the project envisions the creation of an interactive web-map tool for easy accessibility. Professor Fakhreddine and her collaborators are committed to actively engaging with the academic community and stakeholders to ensure their findings catalyze sustainable water resource management practices.

Professor Sarah Fakhreddine's leadership and research, in collaboration with researchers at UT Austin, UC Davis, and the Groundwater Protection Council, is poised to drive transformative change in the field of aquifer management, securing the nation's groundwater resources for future generations.


EPA Press Release