2023 O.E. Meinzer Award

Presented to Jiu Jimmy Jiao

Jiu Jimmy Jiao

Jiu Jimmy Jiao
University of Hong Kong


Citation by John A. Cherry

I am most pleased to nominate Prof. Jimmy Jiao for the O.E. Meinzer Award in recognition of his fundamental research on coastal hydrogeology, particularly the mechanistic insights on the physiochemical interaction at the sea-land interface. Dr. Jiao has more than two hundred and forty publications. The nature of the advances that he’s made can be represented by the following five publications.

1. Jiao, JJ and Z. Tang, 1999, An analytical solution of groundwater response to tidal fluctuation in a leaky confined aquifer, Water Resources Research, 35(3), p747-751

2. Jiao JJ & HL Li, 2004, Breathing of coastal vadose zone induced by sea level fluctuations, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 31, No. 13 L11502 10.1029/2004GL019572

3. Jiao, JJ, S Nandy, and H Li, 2001, Analytical studies on the impact of reclamation on groundwater flow, Ground Water, 39(6), p912-920

4. Jiao, JJ; Y Wang, Y, JA Cherry, XS Wang, BF Zhi, HY Du, DG Wen, 2010, Abnormally high ammonium of natural origin in a coastal aquifer-aquitard system in the Pearl River Delta, China, Environmental Science & Technology, 44, 7470-7475

5. Jiao JJ & V Post, 2019, Coastal Hydrogeology, Cambridge University Press.

The first four pertain to very specific aspects of coastal hydrogeology ranging from ones that are based entirely on physics and fluid mechanics and another that is entirely based on hydro geochemistry and isotopes. Each of these is outstanding and exemplifies what he’s published within a domain of the topics. One of the things that sets Dr. Jiao apart is the fact that he has synthesized his research and the voluminous literature on Coastal Hydrogeology into a textbook. This book is highly acclaimed and is the contribution of himself and his coauthor to making groundwater science concerning coastal hydrogeology accessible to a wide range of readers. This is a rare accomplishment.


Response by Jiu Jimmy Jiao

Thank you, John, for your generous citation. Receiving the prestigious O.E. Meinzer Award is truly an honor and privilege. I am humbled by the notable individuals who have received this award since 1965 and shaped the field of hydrogeology. I extend my sincerest gratitude to the GSA, the Hydrogeology Division, and the Award Committee for presenting me with this tremendous honor. I am also grateful to those who wrote letters of support.

I completed my undergraduate and master's degrees in hydrogeology at China University of Geosciences (Wuhan). After that, in 1989, I went to the University of Birmingham in the UK to pursue a Ph.D. In 1994, I conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Alabama in the USA. I arrived at the University of Hong Kong as a assistant professor in 1997, not by design, but by chance, as my wife believed that Hong Kong was the best place for her. Initially, I had no clear idea of which subject in hydrogeology to pursue. However, I decided to focus on local problems that were most relevant to coastal Hong Kong, so I chose to work on tide-induced groundwater dynamics as my first research topic.

At that time, the available equation was limited to single confined aquifer, as developed by Jacob in the 1950s. However, most coastal aquifers are multi-layered, so I dedicated myself to developing an equation that accounted for leakage from an overlying unconfined aquifer through a semi-confined unit. Additionally, my students and I further expanded the research to include the consideration of storage in the semi-permeable unit and other more complicated coastal aquifers. These endeavors culminated in the creation of a family of equations for studying groundwater tide dynamics.

After a few years, I gained a better understanding of the local hydrogeological issues. Few places in the world have experienced such intense urban growth as Hong Kong. This growth has created some environmental and engineering problems but has also provided unprecedented opportunities for innovative research. In Hong Kong, coastal areas have been filled to create land for various construction purposes. During a visit to an ongoing reclamation site, I was astonished by the speed at which land was being created. I realized that land reclamation is likely more influential than any geological agents in modifying the coastal environment, which inevitably affects the groundwater system. This realization sparked my research on the influence of land reclamation on groundwater regimes.

Another noteworthy incident that influenced my research direction was the heave damage on the runway of the Hong Kong airport, an artificial island. The damage occurred during heavy rain and rapidly rising tides, resulting in abnormally high air pressure in the unsaturated zone. This incident sparked my interest in studying tide-induced airflow in the unsaturated zone.

In 2004, I came across an old hydrogeology report mentioning the "fertile water" in the Pearl River Delta, which is groundwater contained abnormally high ammonium levels, extracted by local farmers to enhance farm fertility. Intrigued, I embarked on investigating the mechanism behind naturally occurring fertile water in coastal river delta. As I delved into this research, I expanded from groundwater hydraulics to hydrogeochemistry, which was relatively new to me, opening numerous opportunities. Furthermore, in 2004, I met John in Hong Kong, who greatly influenced my research, particularly in multilevel sampling in the field. Consequently, my research primarily focuses on field-based studies, emphasizing soil and water sampling, including samples from multi-level wells. This shift has led to increased productivity, as we investigate various aspects of hydrogeology, encompassing water hydraulics, chemistry, and isotopes.

Around 2011, I started contemplating the idea of writing a book. I realized that due to the natural environment of Hong Kong, many of the topics I had been working on could be effectively grouped under the umbrella of coastal hydrogeology. I am immensely grateful to Vincent Post for co-authoring the book. Without his assistance, it would have been impossible for me to complete the book alone.

In my career, I am incredibly grateful for the support and influence of several remarkable colleagues and mentors in my academic journey, including Chongxi Chen, Ken Rushton, John Cherry, Chunmiao Zheng, Billy Moore, and Vincent Post. Furthermore, my research has been greatly enhanced by the invaluable contributions of numerous research students. I would also like to express my heartfelt appreciation to my wife Tong and my daughters Belinda and Chrysol. They must have experienced the impact of my dedication to my research, as it meant spending less time with them. Yet, their support and understanding have been integral to my success.