WWJ Closeup, September 2020

STUART A. SMITH, CGWP
Hydrogeologist
Smith-Comeskey Ground Water Science LLC and Ground+Water Tanzania Ltd.
Poland, Ohio

BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED?
A memorable piece of advice was from former National Water Well Association (NGWA) Executive Director Jay Lehr to a 20-something prepping to teach a short course: “No matter what, you’re a half an hour ahead of the audience.” Go at a task with confidence.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL SELF?
Probably pursuing an engineering master’s degree/PE license. All public water work in our home state of Ohio goes through PEs who can practice hydrogeology, whether qualified or not. We design wells and recommend pump performance for them anyway.

MOST SATISFYING PART OF YOUR JOB?
Seeing abundant, clear water flowing during a well pumping test. It’s even more gratifying now that I am involved in constructing safe water supplies in Tanzania.

MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR JOB?
Constantly having to teach potential and current clients what they need to do to hammer out a scope of work to secure a sustainable groundwater supply. Often the clients just don’t know.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS REMEMBER MOST FROM YOUR PUBLISHED WORK?
From “A Layman’s Guide to Iron Bacteria in Water Wells” in 1980 in Water Well Journal to Sustainable Wells that I wrote with Allen Comeskey, I hope it’s knowledge and techniques for systematic diagnosis of well performance problems; helping to make a well maintenance
mindset mainstream; and employing good groundwater science and technique.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DRILLING ADVANCEMENT YOU’VE SEEN IN YOUR CAREER?
While we use drilling a lot in our work, and I also write about it and well rehabilitation, I’m not a driller. So, I posed this same question to the Facebook Water Well Guys group (see Guest Editorial). I have to agree with Brock Yordy that it’s information technology that makes good information, training, and ideas accessible and collaborations easier.

GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING WATER WELL CONTRACTORS TODAY?
Both here in the United States and in Tanzania, it remains competing with unprofessional contractors who will do it cheaper. The need to build trust and to overcome the “race to the bottom” is a struggle in a craft that people don’t understand.