Graduate STEM Fellow Profile
Thesis: Developing a Rural Drinking Water Quality Index
College/University: University of Colorado Denver
Research Advisor: Casey Allen
Degree Sought: M.S. Environmental Science
Department: Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Research Focus: Drinking water quality in rural areas, ways to effectively screen the quality of wells using a set of predetermined parameters
Description of Research
The goal of my research sits in developing a rural drinking water quality index usable as a “screening” for drinking water quality in wells along the Front Range of Colorado. Wells serving less than 25 people are not tested or required to meet EPA’s maximum contaminant levels for a variety of harmful chemicals. Current proper contaminant testing of these wells requires expensive laboratory analyses – something many rural populations, frankly, lack the means to accomplish. Therefore, providing an easy-to-use and cost effective method to screen water quality in rural areas remains an important scientific endeavor. The idea behind my research is that once a viable drinking water quality index is created, it can be applied to other rural areas – both in the US and internationally – making overall drinking water quality results available quickly, efficiently, and cost-effective for residents, helping put their health in their own hands. Furthermore, if such an index can be devised, spatial analyses using GIS can be performed to correlate “hot spots” of contamination with populated rural areas, for ease of assessing and monitoring at a regional scale. Using field data, I will be able to create spatial representations (e.g., maps) displaying drinking water quality trends.
Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
One lesson that I recently implemented into the classroom was an interdisciplinary lesson that correlated with my research. It was a lab in which different groups had different handheld water treatments and as a class they had to decide which treatment was the best. They were able to collect the water from a nearby stream, treat it, and then use field equipment to test the pH, hardness, alkalinity, total dissolved solids, and the presence of coliform. They then took their data from science class and math class and made different graphs to represent the data. This was a good follow-up lab to a unit they had just finished on the scientific method and scientific inquiry, and it was within a unit on water, so it fit perfectly. The hands-on experience and real world application to the lab helped them understand the science behind it and the type of research I perform.