RFG 2018 Conference


Business Development for Consulting Groundwater Professionals

All successful consulting groundwater professionals engage in business development. It usually means bringing in business, but it can also mean staying billable. In most cases it means a combination of both. Bringing in business requires selling services to prospective clients. Staying billable requires developing and maintaining good relations with those who do bring in the business. Most professional groundwater consulting firms follow a seller-doer model, requiring a balancing of bringing in business and doing billable work. Obviously, no one can be billable unless someone is bringing in business. Bringing in business has always been essential to the survival of any groundwater consulting firm, but doing so has become more difficult in the current recessionary environment. The focus of this paper is on the new skills required for a new economy. It is based on the results of an e-mail survey of more than 190 consulting groundwater professionals, telephone interviews with members of six groundwater consulting firms, a review of relevant literature, and our experience as management consultants working with design engineering firms that provide groundwater consulting services.

Groundwater and Agriculture

Agriculture requires a steady supply of water to meet crop and livestock requirements, linking food security directly to water security. Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater resources in the world. Some countries do not have sufficient supplies of surface water to meet their agricultural demands, so groundwater is extracted to compensate for the difference. In the United States, about 65% of groundwater withdrawals are for agricultural irrigation, which averages an estimated 50 billion gallons of water per day.

Groundwater and Energy

While groundwater is indispensable for energy production, the reverse is also true, as energy is required for groundwater withdrawal, treatment, and delivery. Groundwater and energy are, therefore, closely interconnected, so as the demand for energy increases, the demand for groundwater increases as well. Similarly, energy conservation is directly linked to water conservation, which is necessary to ensure a lasting groundwater supply for future generations. As the need for water continues to grow to meet the demands of a growing population, understanding the relationship between groundwater and energy will be essential for safeguarding continued delivery of energy and water to consumers.

Groundwater and Drinking Water

Safe and reliable drinking water is essential for economic vitality and public health. Nearly every activity at some level in a community requires water for proper function—from homes, schools, and municipal services to commercial, industrial, and agricultural processes of production and waste treatment. The use of groundwater as a safe source of water supply has enabled communities to exist in locations without access to streams, lakes, or reservoirs. With increased population and economic activities that generate pollution, communities must be more vigilant in protecting their drinking water sources.

Geologic Carbon Sequestration and Groundwater

The disposal of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the subsurface via well injection, also known as geologic carbon sequestration or carbon capture and storage (CCS), is one of a portfolio of technologies under consideration as a viable approach to mitigating greenhouse gas buildup. Recognizing that this option for carbon capture holds great promise, it is important to understand it also has the potential to endanger underground sources of drinking water if proper safeguards are not taken.

Ecosystem Conservation and Groundwater

A groundwater-dependent ecosystem (GDE) is a community of micro-organisms, animals and plants, and associated substrates, whose functioning relies on the presence of water under the ground and/or its emergence to the surface. Some GDEs are supported entirely by groundwater while others also receive water from different sources, but the groundwater contribution is critical as regards water chemistry to nourish certain species, and provide stable water temperature and absence of sediment load.

Resilient Cities and Groundwater

Urbanisation is the predominant global phenomenon of our time, and groundwater from springs and wells has been a vital source of urban water-supply since the first settlements. In the modern era, groundwater capture using deep waterwells with submersible electric pumps has enabled major growth for urban use worldwide. Factors influencing groundwater use are resource reliability for municipal supply, resource accessibility for private supply, reducing river-intake security with pollution, and relatively low waterwell construction costs. The large natural storage of most aquifer systems has made them a vital resource for assuring water-supply security during past droughts and will be particularly critical in future climate-change adaptation.

Human Health and Groundwater

The naturally high microbiological and chemical quality of groundwater, captured at springheads and in shallow galleries and dugwells, has been vital for human survival, wellbeing and development from our earliest history – and remains so today. The purity of groundwater, coupled with its mineral content, is such that many springs historically have been attributed medicinal value.

Global Change and Groundwater

Groundwater (contained in sediments and rocks) constitutes the planet’s predominant reserve of fresh water, commonly with storage times from decades to centuries and millennia. Groundwater resources thus provide an excellent ‘buffer’ against the effects of climate variability on surface-water supplies, because of the generally large and widely-distributed storage reserves of aquifer systems. But questions arise as to how naturally resilient are groundwater reserves themselves to global change, and whether we are doing enough to help conserve and protect them.

Energy Generation and Groundwater

The generation, consumption and management of energy interacts with the groundwater domain in surprisingly varied ways. In consequence specific inputs from hydrogeological science are needed to understand these linkages, and for risk assessment and effective management of the interactions. To facilitate discussion it is helpful to classify the interactions under the following headings: sustainable exploitation of renewable energy resources; groundwater impacts of non-renewable energy sources; energy consumption for groundwater pumping and use.


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