Edmunds, Mike

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Mike Edmunds


W. Mike Edmunds 31 July 1941 (UK) – 28 April 2015 (UK)


Mike Edmunds earned an Honours BSc in Geology (1964) and his PhD in geochemistry (1968), focusing on the genesis of garnet in polymetamorphic rocks, at the University of Liverpool. In 1966, he began a 35-year career at the British Geological Survey, where, to quote Willy Burgess of University College London, Mike became “the father of hydrogeochemistry in the UK”. His research initially encompassed chemical processes in aquifers in Great Britain, the impacts of acid rain on shallow groundwater quality, and, as noted by Yousif Kharaka of USGS, “some of the earliest investigations of geothermal resources,” particularly the chemistry of hot, dry-rock reservoirs. Subsequent studies in the Sahara and Sahel sparked Mike’s sustained interest in groundwater recharge and paleohydrology in semi-arid regions. Since the mid-1990s, he has coordinated several major projects sponsored by the European Commission, including baseline groundwater quality and paleohydrology of aquifers across Europe. He retired from an Individual Merit position at the BGS in 2001. In 2002, Mike became Research Director of the Oxford Centre for Water Research and the Visiting Professor of Hydrogeology in the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, where he coordinated the MSc program in Water Science, Policy, and Management.

He was a founder of the International Association of Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry’s Water- Rock Interaction Group, which he chaired from 1986 to 1997. His contributions have been recognized with the Ineson Lectureship (1998) and Whitaker Medal (1999) of the Geological Society of London, the Ingerson Lectureship (2004) of the IAGC, and lectureships at Trinity College Dublin, Oxford, and Waterloo. He received the 2009 Meinzer Award from the Geological Society of America, the first British recipient, for four publications that represent the depth, breadth, and sustained productivity of his research. He also received the 1999 Whitaker medal.

At Oxford University, he continued to advance global groundwater science and management, notably in the UNESCO G-WADI programme, but also focused on developing and launching a novel and interdisciplinary MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management with Rachael McDonnell, Michael Rouse and David Johnstone. Launched in 2004 it is now in its 11th year with over 220 alumni from 52 countries. Mike’s classes have launched many successful academic and practitioner careers inspired not only by the quality of his scholarship but his celebrated field courses to Dorset and the Ebro basin every year.

The MSc course has been the touch-paper for a renaissance in water research in Oxford now linking over 70 faculty and research staff in the Oxford Water Network established in 2009. Mike contributed to innovative, interdisciplinary water science including his significant inputs to new programmes on Improving Water Security for the Poor and Groundwater and Poverty. Both programmes reflect Mike’s significant and enduring personal contributions to improving the lives of rural people in Africa and Asia not only through his world-leading science but also his personal commitment, including over a decade as a trustee of Wells for India, which has transformed the lives of thousands of poor people in Rajasthan.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

Mike was a pioneer in the study of groundwater as an archive of past climate change and his research provided seminal scientific advances on controls on water quality in regional aquifers, recharge over time and space. Mike has been a remarkably prolific and influential researcher in hydrogeology. He has more than 140 externally peer-reviewed publications.

Edmunds and others (1982) was among the first studies that integrated a broad suite of analyses (major and minor solutes, stable isotopes, 14C, and aquifer mineralogy) with geochemical modeling to delineate regional-scale processes of hydrochemical evolution in a clastic aquifer. Edmunds and Walton (1983) complemented the 1982 paper by highlighting hydrochemical evolution in a regional carbonate aquifer and documenting how water quality changed in the upgradient part of the system as a result of agrichemical inputs. This paper may have been the first to identify the potential significance of natural attenuation of contaminants (in this case, nitrate reduction) at the regional scale. As noted by Bridget Scanlon (University of Texas), Mike’s “use of major and trace element concentrations as indicators of redox sequence in an aquifer … with age indicators and palaeo-recharge temperature proxies provided a sophisticated look at the relationships between water/rock interaction, climate and abstraction.”

Using numerical modeling, Cook and others (1992) demonstrated how chloride and stable-isotope profiles in the unsaturated zone can preserve sub-decadal to century-scale fluctuations in recharge. Yousif Kharaka commented that Mike “was the first to show how (vadose-zone) tracer based approaches may be used to resolve recharge rates and … history. The results have had profound implications to recognizing the limits of renewable groundwater, especially in semi-arid regions.” Bridget Scanlon added, “Mike’s vadose zone chloride investigations introduced the hydrogeological community to one of its most valuable approaches to recharge estimation…. The approach has become an indispensible tool for recharge and palaeo-recharge studies worldwide and makes recharge assessment broadly accessible to developing countries and remote locations.”

Edmunds and Milne (2001) drew together studies demonstrating the emplacement of paleowaters in coastal aquifers across northern and western Europe. In addition to being the book’s senior editor, Mike authored or co-authored seven of its 17 papers. Yousif Kharaka highlighted Mike’s work as “instrumental in the recognition of off-shore palaeowaters as an important new water resource”. This volume is cited in a paper just published on-line in Ground Water by Cohen and others, “Origin and extent of fresh paleowaters on the Atlantic Continental Shelf, USA”.

Mike will be remembered as an internationally renowned hydrogeochemist and a leading contributor to the IHP. Mike’s passion for sustainable and equitable management of groundwater was reflected in his leading contribution to the IHP G-WADI programme. The programme, which provides a UNESCO Global Network on Water and Development Information for Arid Lands was established in 2004 to strengthen the global capacity for management of water resources in arid and semi-arid regions. Mike has played an instrumental role in establishing G-WADI regional networks in Asia, Africa, LAC, Arab region and recently in Europe. In 2013 he published a review of the achievements of the programme over its first 10 years – many of which benefited from his experience and enthusiasm.

Reference Material[edit]

2009 Meinzer Award citation by Alan E. Fryer

UNESCO Obituary

Oxford University Obituary

Major Publications[edit]

Edmunds, W.M. and Wright, E.P., 1979. Groundwater recharge and palaeoclimate in the Sirte and Kufra basins, Libya. Journal of Hydrology, 40(3), pp.215-241.

Edmunds, W.M., Bath, A.H., and Miles, D.L., 1982, Hydrochemical evolution of the East Midlands Triassic sandstone aquifer, England: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 46, 2069-2081

Edmunds, W.M., and Walton, N.R.G., 1983, The Lincolnshire Limestone— Hydrogeochemical evolution over a ten-year period: Journal of Hydrology, 61, 201-211

Fontes, J.C., Andrews, J.N., Edmunds, W.M., Guerre, A. and Travi, Y., 1991. Paleorecharge by the Niger river (Mali) deduced from groundwater geochemistry. Water Resources Research, 27(2), pp.199-214.

Cook, P.G., Edmunds, W.M., and Gaye, C.B., 1992, Estimating paleorecharge and paleoclimate from unsaturated zone profiles: Water Resources Research, 28(10), 2721- 2731

Edmunds, W.M. and Gaye, C.B., 1994. Estimating the spatial variability of groundwater recharge in the Sahel using chloride. Journal of Hydrology, 156(1-4), pp.47-59.

Andrews, J.N., Edmunds, W.M., Smedley, P.L., Fontes, J.C., Fifield, L.K. and Allan, G.L., 1994. Chlorine-36 in groundwater as a palaeoclimatic indicator: the East Midlands Triassic sandstone aquifer (UK). Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 122(1), pp.159-171.

Edmunds, W.M. and Smedley, P.L., 1996. Groundwater geochemistry and health: an overview. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 113(1), pp.91-105.

Gaye, C.B. and Edmunds, W.M., 1996. Groundwater recharge estimation using chloride, stable isotopes and tritium profiles in the sands of northwestern Senegal. Environmental Geology, 27(3), pp.246-251.

Smedley, P.L., Edmunds, W.M. and Pelig-Ba, K.B., 1996. Mobility of arsenic in groundwater in the Obuasi gold-mining area of Ghana: some implications for human health. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 113(1), pp.163-181.

Bromley, J., Edmunds, W.M., Fellman, E., Brouwer, J., Gaze, S.R., Sudlow, J. and Taupin, J.D., 1997. Estimation of rainfall inputs and direct recharge to the deep unsaturated zone of southern Niger using the chloride profile method. Journal of Hydrology, 188, pp.139-154.

Elliot, T., Andrews, J.N. and Edmunds, W.M., 1999. Hydrochemical trends, palaeorecharge and groundwater ages in the fissured Chalk aquifer of the London and Berkshire Basins, UK. Applied Geochemistry, 14(3), pp.333-363.

Edmunds, W.M. and Smedley, P.L., 2000. Residence time indicators in groundwater: the East Midlands Triassic sandstone aquifer. Applied Geochemistry, 15(6), pp.737-752.

Herczeg, A.L. and Edmunds, W.M., 2000. Inorganic ions as tracers. In Environmental tracers in subsurface hydrology (pp. 31-77). Springer US.

Edmunds, W.M., and Milne, C.J. (eds.), 2001, Palaeowaters in Coastal Europe: evolution of groundwater since the late Pleistocene: Special Publication 189, Geological Society, London, 332 p.

Edmunds, W.M., Carrillo-Rivera, J.J. and Cardona, A., 2002. Geochemical evolution of groundwater beneath Mexico City. Journal of Hydrology, 258(1), pp.1-24.

Carrillo-Rivera, J.J., Cardona, A. and Edmunds, W.M., 2002. Use of abstraction regime and knowledge of hydrogeological conditions to control high-fluoride concentration in abstracted groundwater: San Luis Potosı basin, Mexico. Journal of hydrology, 261(1), pp.24-47.

Edmunds, W.M., Guendouz, A.H., Mamou, A., Moulla, A., Shand, P. and Zouari, K., 2003. Groundwater evolution in the Continental Intercalaire aquifer of southern Algeria and Tunisia: trace element and isotopic indicators. Applied Geochemistry, 18(6), pp.805-822.

Edmunds, W.M., Shand, P., Hart, P. and Ward, R.S., 2003. The natural (baseline) quality of groundwater: a UK pilot study. Science of the Total Environment, 310(1), pp.25-35.

Scanlon, B.R., Keese, K.E., Flint, A.L., Flint, L.E., Gaye, C.B., Edmunds, W.M. and Simmers, I., 2006. Global synthesis of groundwater recharge in semiarid and arid regions. Hydrological processes, 20(15), pp.3335-3370.

Edmunds, W.M., Ma, J., Aeschbach-Hertig, W., Kipfer, R. and Darbyshire, D.P.F., 2006. Groundwater recharge history and hydrogeochemical evolution in the Minqin Basin, North West China. Applied geochemistry, 21(12), pp.2148-2170.

Ma, J. and Edmunds, W.M., 2006. Groundwater and lake evolution in the Badain Jaran Desert ecosystem, Inner Mongolia. Hydrogeology Journal, 14(7), pp.1231-1243.

Gates, J.B., Edmunds, W.M., Ma, J. and Scanlon, B.R., 2008. Estimating groundwater recharge in a cold desert environment in northern China using chloride. Hydrogeology Journal, 16(5), pp.893-910.

Gates, J.B., Edmunds, W.M., Darling, W.G., Ma, J., Pang, Z. and Young, A.A., 2008. Conceptual model of recharge to southeastern Badain Jaran Desert groundwater and lakes from environmental tracers. Applied Geochemistry, 23(12), pp.3519-3534.

Edmunds, W.M. and Shand, P. eds., 2008. Natural groundwater quality (p. 469). Oxford: Blackwell.

Celle-Jeanton, H., Huneau, F., Travi, Y., Edmunds, W.M. (2009) Twenty years of groundwater evolution in the Triassic sandstone aquifer of Lorraine: Impacts on baseline water quality. Applied Geochemistry, 24(7): 1198-1213.

Edmunds, W.M. (2009) Geochemistry's vital contribution to solving water resource problems. Applied Geochemistry, 24(6): 1058-1073.

Edmunds, W.M. (2009) Palaeoclimate and groundwater evolution in Africa - implications for adaptation and management. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 54(4): 781-792.

Ma J., Ding, Z., Edmunds, W.M., Gates, J.B. and Huang, T. (2009) Limits to recharge of groundwater from Tibetan plateau to the Gobi desert, implications for water management in the mountain front. Journal of Hydrology, 364: 128-141.

Ma, J., Edmunds, W.M., He, J. and Bing, J. (2009) A 2000 year geochemical record of palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironment derived from dune sand moisture. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology, 276: 38-46.

Shand, P., Darbyshire, D.P.F., Love, A.J., and Edmunds, W.M. (2009) Sr isotopes in natural waters: Applications to source characterisation and water-rock interaction in contrasting landscapes. Applied Geochemistry, 24: 574-586.

Edmunds, W.M. (2010) Conceptual models for recharge sequences in arid and semi-arid regions using isotopic and geochemical methods. In, Wheater, H.S., Mathias, S.A. and Li, X. (eds). Groundwater Modelling in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas. Cambridge University Press. 150 pp. ISBN: 9780521111294.

Edmunds, W.M. and Gaye, C.B. (2010) The unsaturated zone as an observatory for the African Sahel. In, Birkle, P. and Torres, I.S. (eds.) Water-Rock Interaction. CRC Press/Balkema, Leiden. pp. 23-26.

Edmunds, W.M. and Hope, R.A. (2010) Water sustainability and security in Africa. Chapter 7, in Agyeman-Duah, I. (ed.) (2010) Pilgrims of the Night: Development challenges and opportunities in Africa. Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited. ISBN: 9780956240156.

Jin, L. and Edmunds, W.M. (2010) A new immiscible displacing fluid for extracting interstitial water from unsaturated sediments and soils. Vadose Zone Journal, 9: 1-7. Ma, J.Z., Pan, F., Chen, L., Edmunds, W.M., Ding, Z., He, J., Zhou, K. and Huang, T. (2010) Isotopic and geochemical evidence of recharge sources and water quality in the Quaternary aquifer beneath Jinchang city, NW China. Applied Geochemistry, 25(7): 996-1007.

Edmunds, W.M. (2011) Beryllium: environmental geochemistry and health effects. In, Nriagu, J.O. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Health, Volume 1. Burlington: Elsevier. pp. 293-301. ISBN: 978-0-444-52273-3.

Edmunds, W.M. (2012) Limits to the availability of groundwater in Africa. Environmental Research Letters, 7(2): 21003.

Edmunds, W.M. and Bogush, A.A. (2012) Geochemistry of natural waters - the legacy of V.I. Vernadsky and his students. Applied Geochemistry, 27(10): 1871-1886.

He, J., Ma, J., Zhang, P., Tian, L., Zhu, G., Edmunds, W.M. and Zhang, Q. (2012) Groundwater recharge environments and hydrogeochemical evolution in the Jiuquan Basin, northwest China. Applied Geochemistry, 27(4): 866-878.

Huang, T., Pang, Z. and Edmunds, W.M. (2012) Soil profile evolution following land-use change: implications for groundwater quantity and quality. Hydrological Processes.

Ma, J., Wang, Y., Zhao, Y., Jin, X., Ning, N., Edmunds, W.M. and Zhou, X. (2012) Spatial distribution of chloride and nitrate within the unsaturated dune of a cold-arid desert, implications for palaeo-environmental records. Catena, 96: 68-75.

Ma, J., Zhang, P., Zhu, G., Wang, Y., Edmunds, W.M., Ding, Z. and He, J. (2012) The composition and distribution of chemicals and isotopes in precipitation in the Shiyang river system, northwestern China. Journal of Hydrology, 436-437: 92-101.

Stone, A.E.C. and Edmunds, W.M. (2012) Sand, salt and water in the Stampriet Basin, Namibia: Calculating unsaturated zone (Kalahari dune-field) recharge using the chloride mass balance approach. Water SA, 38(3): 367-377.

Taylor, R.G., Scanlon, B., Döll, P., Rodell, M., van Beek, R., Wada, Y., Longuevergne, L., Leblanc, M., Famiglietti, J.S., Edmunds, W.M., Konikow, L., Green, T.R., Chen, J., Taniguchi, M., Bierkens, M.F.P., MacDonald, A., Fan, Y., Maxwell, R.M., Yechieli, Y., Gurdak, J.J., Allen, D.M., Shamsudduham, M., Hiscock, K., Yeh, P.J.F., Holman, I. and Treidel, H. (2012) Ground water and climate change. Nature Climate Change, 3: 322-329.

Whitehead, P.G. and Edmunds, W.M. (2012) Modelling and reconstruction of the River Kennet palaeohydrology and hydrogeology: Silbury Hill and Avebury in 4,400 BP. Hydrology Research, 43(5): 551-559.

Edmunds, W.M., Darling, W.G., Purtschert, R. and Corcho Alvarado, J.A. (2013) Noble gas, CFC and other geochemical evidence for the age and origin of the Bath thermal waters, UK. Applied Geochemistry, 40: 155-163.

Huang, T., Pang, Z. and Edmunds, W.M. (2013) Soil profile evolution following land-use change: Implications for groundwater quantity and quality. Hydrological Processes, 27(8): 1238-1252.

Ma, J., He, J., Qi, S., Zhu, G., Zhao, W., Edmunds, W.M. and Zhao, Y. (2013) Groundwater recharge and evolution in the Dunhuang Basin, northwestern China. Applied Geochemistry, 28: 19-31.

Ma, J., Pan, Y., Gu, C., Shu, H., Edmunds, W.M. and Li, D. (2013) Agricultural structure adjustment and ecosystem restoration planning at the village level to combat desertification: a pilot study in the Minqin Basin, Northwest China. Advanced Materials Research, 864-867: 2599-2605.

Post, V.E.A., Groen, J., Kooi, H., Person, M. and Edmunds, W.M. (2013) Offshore fresh groundwaters as a global phenomenon. Nature, 504: 71-78.

MacDonald, D.M.J. and Edmunds, W.M. (2014) Estimation of groundwater recharge in weathered basement aquifers, Southern Zimbabwe; a geochemical approach. Applied Geochemistry, 82: 86-100. Stone, A.E.C. and Edmunds, W.M. (2014) Naturally-high nitrate in unsaturated zone sand dunes above the Stampriet Basin, Namibia. Journal of Arid Environments, 105: 41-51.

Yu, H., Edmunds, M., Lora-Wainwright, A. and Thomas, D. (2014) From principles to localized implementation: villagers' experiences of IWRM in the Shiyang River basin, Northwest China. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 30(3): 588-604.

Edmunds, W.M., Ahmed, K.M. and Whitehead, P.G. (2015) A review of arsenic and its impacts in groundwater of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta, Bangladesh. Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts, 17: 1032-1046.

Jin, J., Edmunds, W.M., Lu, S. and Ma, J. (2015) Geochemistry of sediment moisture in the Badain Jaran desert: Implications of recent environmental changes and water-rock interaction. Applied Geochemistry, 63: 235-247.

Rohde, M.M., Edmunds, W.M., Freyberg, D., Sharma, O.P. and Sharma, A. (2015) Estimating aquifer recharge in fractured hard rock: analysis of the methodological challenges and application to obtain a water balance (Jaisamand Lake Basin, India). Hydrogeology Journal, 23(7): 1573-1586.

Yu, H.H., Edmunds, M., Lora-Wainwright, A. and Thomas, D. (2015) Governance of the irrigation commons under integrated water resources management - A comparative study in contemporary rural China. Environmental Science and Policy, 55(1): 65-74.

Stone, A.E.C. and Edmunds, W.M. (2016) Unsaturated zone hydrostratigraphies: A novel archive of past climates in dryland continental regions. Earth-Science Reviews, 157: 121-144.