2019 O.E. Meinzer Award

Presented to Bridget Scanlon

Bridget Scanlon

Bridget Scanlon
University of Texas at Austin


Citation by Alan E. Fryar, University of Kentucky

I am delighted to introduce Bridget Scanlon as the recipient of the 2019 O.E. Meinzer Award. Bridget’s work truly knows no boundaries. She has conducted research in Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia, on topics ranging from karst hydrology to vadose-zone hydrology to groundwater management, at scales from soil ped to sub-continental.

Bridget’s selection for the Meinzer Award is based on four highly cited papers that are representative of her scope of work. The first two papers helped to establish Bridget (to quote Jack Sharp, one of her nominators) as “the leading global expert on groundwater recharge.” Scanlon, Healy, and Cook (2002, Choosing appropriate techniques for quantifying groundwater recharge, Hydrogeology Journal) and Scanlon et al. (2006, Global synthesis of groundwater recharge in semiarid and arid regions, Hydrological Processes) thoroughly documented how recharge varies temporally and spatially in different geologic, climatic, and land-use settings. Lenny Konikow, another of Bridget’s nominators, noted that the second paper “laid the groundwork for later global analyses based on climate modeling and remote sensing data”.

The second two papers show Bridget’s increasing focus on considerations of sustainability under climatic and demographic pressures. Scanlon et al. (2012, Groundwater depletion and sustainability of irrigation in the US High Plains and Central Valley, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) integrated intensive water-level measurements with numerical modeling and GRACE satellite data to assess long-term agricultural pumping from two major U.S. aquifers. Nicot and Scanlon (2012, Water use for shale-gas production in Texas, U.S., Environmental Science & Technology) was among the first studies to quantify water use for hydraulic fracturing, which is increasingly important in U.S. energy production and is likely to become significant in other countries, particularly China.

In summary, Bridget Scanlon’s contributions to science and society have been sustained, innovative, and important. She is clearly worthy of joining the distinguished group of Meinzer awardees.


Response by Bridget Scanlon

I am honored to be selected to receive this year’s O.E. Meinzer Award and greatly appreciate Alan Fryar’s comments and nominations from Lenny Konikow, Abhijit Mukherjee, and Jack Sharp.

I am extremely grateful for my colleagues at the Bureau of Economic Geology, particularly Bob Reedy, who has worked closely with me for over 20 years. Our early work on groundwater recharge involved unsaturated zone field studies, monitoring, and modeling analyses. I benefited greatly from collaborating with Rick Healy (USGS) on recharge estimation, and I admire his book on this topic. We have presented short courses on recharge for many years throughout the U.S. and as far afield as South Africa. The 2006 paper on Global synthesis of groundwater recharge in semiarid and arid regions represents the results of an IAEA workshop and follow up analyses.

Much of our research focused on groundwater depletion related to irrigated agriculture. Starting in the High Plains aquifer in Texas we drilled many boreholes and used tracers to quantify recharge in irrigated and rainfed agricultural sites in the High Plains aquifer. I learned a great deal from comparing results from the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers and used that knowledge when applying GRACE satellites and evaluating global models. I benefited greatly from discussions with David Stonestrom, Claudia Faunt, and many others at the U.S. Geological Survey.  Within the past 10 years our research group has begun evaluating the interdependence of water and energy, including energy extraction and electricity generation. I learned from the early work that JP Nicot initiated on this topic and enjoyed collaborating with him on many projects related to unconventional energy extraction.

The Jackson School at UT-Austin was created in 2001 from an endowment of ~ 350 million USD. I am extremely grateful to Mr. Jack Jackson for his generosity.  I also appreciate the support that the Fisher Endowed Chair in Geological Sciences provides. During the Jackson School’s early years, we had a funded post-doctoral program that allowed us to conduct research overseas. Postdocs included Dani Kurtzman, Di Long, Laurent Longuevergne, Gil Strassberg, and many others.  I very much enjoyed visiting universities during my 2006 Birdsall Dreiss lecture tour, discussing impacts of food production on water resources and applications of GRACE satellite data.

I am very grateful for all the opportunities arising during my career, and look forward to continuing much of this work in the future. And, as stated earlier, I greatly appreciate having been given this most prestigious award.