Engineering Researcher Co-Chairs University Water Cluster Hire for New Groundwater Observatory

By:     Ashley Duvelius
Date:  May 3, 2017

Dominic Boccelli, CEAS Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, co-leads the University search committee tasked with hiring a groundwater hydrologist for UC’s new C.V. Theis Groundwater Observatory, which may lead to cleaner drinking water for 2M+ Ohioans. 


Pointedly selected for his expertise in integrated water resources management, specifically urban water infrastructure renewal, renovation and management, Dominic Boccelli, PhD, University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, now serves as co-chair of the UC search committee tasked with hiring a groundwater hydrologist for UC’s new C.V. Theis Groundwater Observatory.

Unveiled in March, the new University of Cincinnati (UC) C.V. Theis Groundwater Observatory reaffirms the University’s commitment to its Water Cluster Research Initiative which leverages UC’s faculty strengths in water research with that of water planning and management experts to explore sustainable solutions to local, regional, national and global water challenges. The $400K Observatory, located at the Miami Whitewater Soccer Complex, is the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River designed to continuously monitor how water moves between the Great Miami River and the aquifer beneath it.

The groundwater hydrologist new hire search that Boccelli heads is essential to UC and the Observatory, as the position will actively engage with research and teaching efforts in both CEAS and the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) as well as the other entities involved in UC’s Water Cluster Initiative.

Boccelli explains, “I think the Observatory will play an important role in understanding the hydraulic and water quality interactions between surface and ground water systems in the aquifer.  This aquifer is important as it serves as the primary drinking water source for than 2.3 million Ohioans.  Understanding this interaction will aid us in better understanding the movement of low level contaminants/nutrients between the systems and should lead to improved management strategies.”

Boccelli’s storied connection to the Observatory stems back to 2014, when he spearheaded the establishment of the interdisciplinary UC Water Center, coinciding with the UC Provost’s Cluster Hiring Initiative. He was also the lead PI on the cluster hire proposal between CEAS, A&S, and the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) that secured six faculty lines as part of the Water Cluster Hiring Initiative.   

Aerial view of the new C.V. Theis Groundwater Observatory along the Great Miami River. Photo/Dylan Ward, UC assistant professor of geology

Aerial view of the new C.V. Theis Groundwater Observatory along the Great Miami River. Photo/ Dylan Ward, UC assistant professor of geology

He continues, “Long-term, I am hoping that the Observatory, and the faculty associated with the Observatory, will be part of an interdisciplinary research and education team focused on integrated water resources management. The Observatory will provide a significant amount of new data on how these surface/ground water systems interact, which will help to inform the understanding of similar systems around the globe.”

Boccelli joined the UC tenure-track faculty in 2007 after spending two years as an Environmental Engineer with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Homeland Security Research Center.  He has led and connected varied academic disciplines with practicing professionals to develop comprehensive approaches to managing and protecting water resources.

Boccelli’s overarching research interests are associated with integrated water resources management, currently focused in the area of urban water infrastructure renewal, renovation and management.  The primary focus of his current research is real-time data integration and network modeling for potable water systems.  The real-time modeling platform will provide the foundation for decision support applications to improve the hydraulic, water quality and energy efficiency of our potable water systems.

Most recently, Boccelli was chosen to participate in the Trans-disciplinary Research Leadership Program, sponsored by UC’s Office of Research. The academic year-long program provides an elite group of promising, future leaders at UC with trans-disciplinary team research leadership development training. The program will equip participants with a deeper knowledge of and skills for practical mentoring and collaborative research project development across disciplines. At the end of the year, program participants will be expected to deliver an actionable proposal to begin or expand collaborative research. Boccelli’s commitment to this project begins Fall 2017.

Boccelli earned his BS degrees in chemistry and environmental engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1993 and 1994, respectively. He received his MS in environmental engineering from UC in 1999, and his PhD in environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2003.


About the C.V. Theis Groundwater Observatory

The Charles Vernon “C.V.” Theis Groundwater Observatory (formerly the Great Miami Ground-water Observatory) was envisioned and propelled to fruition by UC Emeriti faculty member David Nash, of A&S. Nash led the creation of project descriptions and diagrams; engaged in nearly every presentation pitched to prospective donors; developed and proposed the C.V. Theis naming request; and personally oversaw on-site construction, ensuring that the operation and every detail stayed to true to the Observatory’s vision and mission.

Nash describes, “The Observatory serves three main purposes: 1) Foster sound stewardship and conservation education efforts to promote the understanding of the essential importance vulnerability of our regional groundwater resources; 2) Promote research on the movement of water and contaminants between the surface water and groundwater systems; and 3) Provide real-time data on groundwater flow and quality to regional Public Water Systems.”

The Observatory’s namesake, Charles Vernon “C.V.” Theis, is one of the most distinguished figures in the history of groundwater hydrology research. Theis developed the “Theis Method,” a globally recognized, widely used procedure for determining the fundamental properties of groundwater aquifers. A product of both the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science (MS Civil Engineering ’22) and the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences (PhD Geology ’29), “Theis befittingly symbolizes the benefits of synergistic cooperation among various disciplines.”

The Duke Energy Foundation and the Miami Conservatory District each generously donated $140K and $60K, respectively, to fund the C.V. Groundwater Observatory. The Great Parks of Hamilton County donated the land on which the observatory is located to support the researchers’ efforts. The Observatory also received generous support from project donors including the UC Office of the Provost, UC Office of Research, UC Office of Planning + Design + Construction, Terracon Consultants, Inc., THP Limited Inc., The Kleingers Group, Scherzinger Drilling Co., and All-Rite Ready Mix.