Water is one of the most versatile of all chemicals. It comprises about 75% of the Earth’s surface and is an integral part of every ecosystem—we drink it, play in it, and use it in a wide variety of manufacturing processes.
Water chemists study the impact of water on other elements in these systems and vice versa. Water chemists also contribute to the design and implementation of processes and policies to manage areas of impact.
Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability. A practitioner of hydrology is a hydrologist, working within the fields of earth or environmental science, physical geography , geology , or
civil and environmental engineering.
Chemists in this field can work as bench chemists or data review chemists and can be in government or with private sector environmental management companies.
Water chemists undertake a variety of responsibilities. Their titles vary as well—some of which reflect the interplay of disciplines, as in hydrologists, hydrogeologists, and hydrobiogeochemists. Additional titles include water purification chemist, wastewater treatment plant chemist, surface water chemist, and groundwater chemist. Water
chemists often use their specific knowledge about water for applications that affect entire ecosystems.
Typical Job Duties
- Ensure that water processed at filtration plants is safe.
- Evaluate ecosystems—collect samples periodically and monitor the condition of streams, lakes, and other bodies of water over time. They use the data they collect to review trends, interpret them, and make projections.
- Review and evaluate data and make recommendations for regulations and policy.
- Research hydrologists investigate surface, watershed, and regional water contamination.
- Study groundwater that has been contaminated by crude oil or gasoline leaks or monitor radioactive elements in groundwater and water flow in aquifers.
- Develop processes to remove contaminants from water (water remediation).
- If the job includes field sampling, physical stamina to carry equipment into remote areas may be required.
- Analytical and critical thinking skills are needed to review and understand the results of the tests they conduct, and good judgment is necessary to develop appropriate responses.
- Oral and written communication skills to convey the results and conclusions not only to other scientists but to those without a scientific background such as government officials or the general public.
- Ability to work as part of a team, with others of diverse backgrounds.
Depending on educational level, water chemists generally start out working in the field or at the bench. As they progress in their career, they may take on more responsibility for higher profile and more complex projects or may supervise more people.
Original content at acs.org