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Groundwater Expert Lauded for Industry Contributions

Q&A With Hydrogeologist W. Richard Laton

Dec. 10, 2014

For 15 years, W. Richard Laton has been training geology majors about the importance of groundwater resources and stewardship — inspiring many to continue their trainiing and become hydrogeologists.

Laton is being honored today by the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) for his outstanding contributions to the industry and the organization. The associate professor of geological sciences has received more than $2 million in research grants for projects related to water quality, use and management. He is currently developing a geological and hydrogeological conceptual model of the Malibu Valley Groundwater Basin. In addition, his students are researching the groundwater and geology of the campus, utilizing the research wells at the Fullerton Arboretum and on the northern portion of campus.

"It's my students who keep me going and striving to stay abreast of the newest information and latest developments in the industry," said Laton, who earned his doctorate in hydrogeology from Western Michigan University.

What is your proudest contribution to the industry?

I'm proudest of the volume of students I've introduced to this important field. I've been at CSUF since 1999, and I love running into former students and hearing about their careers. It's great when they tell me that I impacted their lives for the better.

Why does groundwater matter?

Thirty percent of all drinking water in the U.S. is from groundwater (even more in Orange County), which fills the void within the geologic materials beneath the land surface. Groundwater is 40 times more abundant on earth than surface water contained in lakes, streams and rivers.

What are threats to OC's groundwater supply?

The primary threat to our water supply is not really drought, because we effectively recycle most of our wastewater. That said, we need to be conservative in our daily water use. New technologies are emerging, and with state bond money, we should see more desalination and recycling than ever before. I also don't believe that fracking is a major concern, if done correctly. However, contamination is always a threat, which is why water agencies and the state are always tracking various sites. There are several areas around the county that are seriously contaminated, but these, as well as many other contaminated sites, are being actively remediated.

How do you inspire students to pursue careers in the field?

This is pretty easy. Every human needs clean water to survive. All I have to do is remind them that there will always be a job in water — be it clean drinking water, wastewater or handling contaminated water.

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