EPA grants $2 million for water study at Oklahoma State University

Pictured: (left to right) Duane Smith, director of the Oka’ Institute, and OSU faculty members Sabrina Beckmann, Todd Halihan, Caitlin Barnes, Tingying Xu and Yipeng Zhang.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Oklahoma State University geology professor, Dr. Todd Halihan, would be the recipient of a nearly $2 million research grant to study the use and risks of enhanced aquifer recharge (EAR) to improve groundwater availability and quality.

Along with his team of researchers at OSU, Halihan will collaborate with the Oka’ Institute at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, and Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas to develop innovative monitoring and analysis strategies for rural EAR structures.

“We have spent about a century pumping groundwater out of our aquifers, and it is showing,” Halihan said. “This grant gives a chance for rural stakeholders and groundwater scientists to work out the best way to safely get the water back into the ground.”

Groundwater depletion has been a long-standing issue, and this research project seeks to find safe ways to replenish aquifers. The project will focus on the karstic Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer in Ada, Oklahoma, with far-reaching implications for the United States.

“So, when the EPA looks at the Arbuckle-Simpson, it’s not just for the city of Ada — it’s about world-class research that affects many millions of people across the United States. It’s why this research is so important,” said Duane Smith, executive director of the Oka’ Institute.

The team will study storm events moving through the subsurface, monitor natural and enhanced recharge locations, and evaluate artificially created recharge structures.

“The results of the project are expected to allow us to expand recharge projects across the U.S. and internationally to recharge aquifers, potentially limit flooding during intense precipitation events and ensure that the process is done safely to protect water quality,” Halihan said, “we will be assisting the citizens and industries of southern Oklahoma to ensure a stable, clean water supply far into the future.”

Dr. Halihan’s groundwater research and aquifer recharge expertise is highlighted throughout several groundwater training courses offered through the NGWA University program.
Pictured: worker with NGWAU and OSU logo

NGWA University is a partnership with the National Groundwater Association (NGWA) and the Oklahoma State University College of Arts and Sciences. This collaboration aims to address the critical shortfall of geoscience workers and improve access to groundwater not only in Oklahoma, but also across the globe.

The Groundwater Training Online courses cover a variety of topics ranging from drill site safety to rig types and well design. These courses create direct pathways for people to pursue groundwater careers, whether that be entering the industry or advancing their current position. Oklahomans can take these courses for free thanks to scholarships provided by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.