Worldwide Great Shakeout: Are You Earthquake Prepared?

Stocked up? Emergency plan written and communicated? Even if you feel behind, just starting the process is a great first step.


Today is the Great Shakeout in the Pacific Northwest and worldwide.

See the resources below to get prepared in our “seismically rich” part of our world, including thoughts by Aspect’s very own geologic expert Dave McCormack on the science and potential of the Cascadia Subduction Zone i.e., the “Big One” occurring:

Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill

A Geologist’s Thoughtson the Pacific Northwest Mega Quake Story

Get Ready to Rumble: A Guide to Earthquake Preparedness by the Seattle Times

What Can I Do? Emergency Guide: From the City of Seattle's Emergency Management Guide

Meet Mari Otto and Meilani Lanier-Kamaha'o

Mari Otto and Meilani Lanier-Kamaha'o recently joined Aspect's Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

    Mari Otto, Staff Geotechnical Engineer

    mari and friend.jpg

    1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
    I am from a little tiny archipelago in the Pacific called Palau. Not a lot of people have heard of it, so if you want to learn about it come find me – I love talking about home. It’s a great place to grow up – lots of great diving spots and pretty scenery. I spent almost my entire childhood running around (or more often than not, swimming around) having a blast. 

    I came to the US to study civil engineering at UH Manoa in Hawaii and I worked in New Zealand before deciding to come to Seattle for grad school at UW. Then I decided I like the Pacific Northwest so much, I might as well stay here for a few more years! 

    2.    What inspired you to pursue geotechnical engineering? What made you curious about it?
    My geotech professor in undergrad was a great teacher and he had a lot of cool stories about working as a consultant on the Boston Big Dig. Taking my geotech courses from him made me want to learn more about working in this field. 

    3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
    My favorite part about geotech is that it involves a lot of hands-on work and going out in the field. Don’t get me wrong, I like being nice and comfy in the office - but if I was inside all the time, I would probably go a little stir-crazy.

    4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
    I’m still a total Seattle/WA noob, so I’m trying to spend more time exploring the area, hiking, and looking for my future favorite food spots. On lazy days, I like to hang out and read, play guitar (badly), and watch sci-fi/horror movies.

    5.    Where would your dream house be located?
    I’ve actually put a lot of thought into my dream house. It’ll be in Palau, at a nice spot not too far from the beach. It’ll be timber-framed, with an awesome deck for BBQs and viewing the ocean. Ideally, it’ll have a good surf/paddling spot nearby so I could go out on the water every morning.

    Meilani Lanier-Kamaha'o, Project Geologist

    Utah's Arches National Park

    Utah's Arches National Park

    1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
    I grew up between Santa Cruz and Valley Center, California – i.e., a proud-to-be-tree-huggers bubble on the Monterey Bay where the Redwoods meet the Pacific Ocean versus the granite hills covered in avocado and citrus groves in the northeast corner of San Diego. In the past dozen years, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, Ellensburg, north county San Diego, and Orange County. The Cascades stole my heart when I flew over them on my way to Missoula in 2010 and after marrying a local – and living throughout the southern California megalopolis – it only made sense to come back to the mountains!

    2.    What inspired you to pursue geology? What made you curious about it?
    Like knowing an older sibling, I do not remember I time when I was not interested in the earth and sky. As a child, I was transfixed by characters that made mountains, chased stars, sent storms around the earth with a breath, or pierced into the core of the earth or sea to find whole new worlds. I also had the benefit of living in spectacular parts of California and was surrounded by an environmentally conscious community. By the time geology entered my life academically it just made sense to me. Genie Elliott introduced me to plate tectonics and Dr. Ann Blythe introduced me to research and career opportunities. So, I pursued a career that was intuitive, generally involved being outdoors, and helped preserved the natural resources I love.

    3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
    Geology is pretty unique in its physicality compared to other sciences. Our laboratory is everywhere around us, even if covered by concrete and maybe especially in those instances where we manipulate and apply our knowledge of geology. I love that geology exists on so many scales from mountain building and planetary evolution to fractional crystallization and microns. For me environmental consulting is like conducting many little research projects; predicting what’s in the subsurface then finding out. I love when everything I’ve learned is true but also when something different is going on.  Our work directly relates to society and I love working in teams of multidisciplinary professionals. 

    4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
    Generally being outdoors is what I love, be that hiking, cycling, running, swimming, or sitting with a tasty beer. When there isn’t time for an outing I end up doing miscellaneous projects including building shelves, bedframes, crocheting, sewing, or dabbling in painting and drawing. When I’m not talking with my husband about social justice, the state of education, implicit bias, or all the possibilities of our future, I try to sit down with an instrument and fumble through the process of learning or re-learning how to play it. All that aside, most days my happy place is cooking up delicious food in the kitchen. Vegetables are my thing and trying different spices, sauces, and new ways to prepare could-get-boring-ingredients is fun, calming, and I get to enjoy (EAT) my hard work! 

    5.    Where would your dream house be located? 
    I am a soul divided: 

    1. My dream house would certainly be located in the sky. I’m not yet sure of the logistics, either a semi-permanent cloud city (semi-permanent because I’d still want other clouds, the ones not supporting my house, to be floating by from time to time) or suspended mountains with little root cities on their undersides.
    2. My dream house would certainly be located in the Shire. Beautiful round doorway leading into a cozy home INSIDE A HILL or MOUNTAIN. Gardens, mead, and mountains!

    30 Years and Beyond: Caring for Landfills Post Closure

    For landfill owners and operators, an ounce of prevention can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars of cure. Read Chris Augistine’s DJC article about navigating the regulatory requirements and applying strategies to reduce monitoring requirements, save money, and successfully plan for post-closure care at closed landfills.


    Aspect's Dan Haller Presenting on Water Law, Water Banking, and Water Rights - 9/28 & 9/29

    Washington Public Utility District Association Conference - 9/28

    On day two of this year’s WPUDA conference in Leavenworth, Aspect’s Dan Haller will be participating on a morning session panel titled “What’s a Water Bank and How Does it Work?” During the afternoon sessions, Dan will be giving a Water Rights 101 presentation.  Public Utility District's manage numerous water rights over domestic systems, dams, hatcheries, and Parks, which put them in a unique position to participating water Banks to accomplish their overall District. Protecting District water rights is a key priority to ensure they are available for multiple District business needs.

    Yakima County Bar Association - 9/29

    Dan will be giving a presentation on the Hirst decision and how it affects Eastern Washington water rights to the Yakima County Bar Association September 29th. The Hirst decision changed the regulatory framework of County rural building permit and land use policies and is prompting numerous changes from new regulations, moratoriums on building, creation of water Banks, and water write transactions.

    Aspect's Summer of Sports

    For many Aspect staffers, the dry summer months are usually spent out in the field. This season, it was true in more ways than one. Our summer was bookended by sporting events that took us out into the “fields” down the street from our Seattle office. 

    In June, the women of Aspect attended a Seattle Mariners matinee game vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Safeco Field. Adorned in matching tees made especially for the outing, the group indulged in gigantic soft pretzels and other ballpark sundries in between cheering for pitcher Felix Hernandez’s fine outing and the Mariners’ three home runs of the day.

    In August, Aspect staff was three rows strong (and several garlic fry orders deep) at Century Link Field as the Seattle Sounders took on the Portland Timbers. Despite both team’s valiant efforts and the ever-present cheers from the crowd, the final score was 1-1. The tie may be frustrating for most fans, but it did make for far less tension between the Seattle and Portland offices at staff meetings the next morning. 

    Finally, in September, two Aspect teams (Aspect Earth and Aspect Water) participated in the 2017 Kickball Without Borders Event - a fundraiser organized by the Puget Sound Chapter of Engineers Without Borders for its international projects in Nicaragua, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. We showed up, we tried hard, we had fun, and we exited the tournament early with pulled hammies and bruised egos. There's always next year!   

    A big-screen Mariners welcome for Aspect's ladies

    The Women of Aspect and their custom tees

    The ladies' vantage point for the Mariners' matinee

    The Aspect crew catches the last rays of sun at the Sounders match

    The Aspect crew catches the last rays of sun at the Sounders match

    The Sounders at sunse

    Can you spot the Space Needle?

    Aspect Earth and Aspect Water kickball teams

    From Water Wars to Water Policy – 100 Years of Washington Water Code

    This year marks 100 Years of water rights in Washington state. In parallel with this centennial, water rights have received a flood of recent attention in the public eye, primarily because of the role the Hirst decision has played in halting the state’s $4 Billion capital budget.

    Image credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

    Image credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

    To take the pulse of the water managers, policy makers, and others who steer water law in the state, Aspect conducted a reporter’s roundtable to hear thoughts on Washington water policy today and for the future. Read their account in this month’s “The Water Report”, as well as a fascinating look back to the pre-code, wild west era where dynamite was occasionally preferred as a dispute resolution tool for water management.

    Also, be sure to check out the excellent story map and video series developed by the Washington State Department of Ecology on this topic. Lastly, the water code centennial will be the center of attention of next month’s American Water Resources Association – Washington Section (AWRA-WA) State Conference,  October 3, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  

    Seeing the Finish Line on New Lake Chelan Water Resources

    Chelan PUD and Ecology, with technical water rights support from Aspect, are close to finalizing an agreement that frees up over 5,200 acre-feet per year of water rights for new development in the Lake Chelan Basin. This exciting milestone is the result of years of work by Ecology and Chelan PUD to assess how much water remains in a 65,000 acre-feet annual water reserve described in a 1992 Agreement. Read more details in the Wenatchee World article HERE.

    Reach 4 of the Chelan River

    Reach 4 of the Chelan River

    Looking Forward to StormCon – August 27-31

    Aspect is excited to attend and present at the 16th Annual StormCon, August 27-31 in Bellevue, WA this year. This national conference, organized by Forester Media, offers a vast curriculum of workshops, certifications, and presentations focused on surface water quality. A diverse range of topics will be available over six tracks ranging from cutting edge research and technologies to lessons learned managing stormwater in various settings. Aspect’s Tom Atkins, Senior Associate Engineer, and James Packman, Senior Hydrologist, will be presenting on three topics at this year’s event. 

    On Tuesday, August 29th, James Packman will be presenting with Beth Schmoyer from the City of Seattle on the design and testing results of an R&D pilot project to develop a new suspended solids fluvial sampling device (a.k.a. sediment trap). Later in the day, Tom Atkins will be presenting on the systematic approach and successful strategies that were used to achieve stormwater regulatory compliance at Maxum Petroleum’s diesel fueling and petroleum fuel/lubricant shipping and receiving facility located on Harbor Island in Seattle.

    During the Wednesday, August 30th sessions, James will be presenting again, this time alongside Greg Vigoren from the City of Lakewood on the results of a regional evaluation of municipal stormwater source control inspection data. The project is part of the western Washington Stormwater Action Monitoring program and is the first time a regional evaluation of this type of data has been done in Washington.

    Possible Solutions for the Future of Icicle Creek Basin Water Resources

    The 200-square-mile Icicle Creek basin in central Washington is the heart of the region’s agricultural, fisheries, and outdoor recreation resources. For years, the competing demands of stakeholders has resulted in a critical need to improve the basin’s conditions to reliably supply water to a variety of concerned groups.  Mike Kaputa, Director of Chelan County’s Natural Resources Department, recently wrote an in-depth article for The Water Report covering the complex web of conflicts and possible emerging solutions for this highly scrutinized water basin. Read the article HERE

    Reducing Power Costs, Conserving Water, and Increasing Crop through On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency

    Thanks to bountiful hydropower electricity, residents of North Central Washington benefit from some of the lowest power rates and live in one of the best fruit-growing regions in the United States. Successful fruit growers in the region are constantly pushing the envelope to reinvest in their crops and rediscover ways to economically maximize yield. Because regional power rates are so low, an often-overlooked opportunity for growers is optimizing pumping-related power costs. 

    Power use can be a key tool to uncover significant cost savings and opportunities to gain water, and thus potentially expand fruit operations. Discussed in detail below, performing a power use analysis and implementing infrastructure efficiency improvements could potentially save a grower tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs and reduce water use by hundreds of acre-feet. In some cases, water saved can be used to expand orchard operations or be sold for profit. 

    As this hypothetical apple farm scenario shows, a power and water audit has the potential for growers to identify opportunities to reduce power costs and save water at the same time

    What Drives Pumping Energy Use?

    Pressure and flow are the two primary factors that go into pump power costs, but there are other factors to consider. For example, the age and quality of pumps and motors influences their operating efficiency. A premium-efficiency motor may operate above 90 percent efficiency, whereas an older motor that hasn’t been rewound in a while may be only be 80 percent efficient (or even lower). Pumps have a range of efficiency also. A new properly sized pump operating at its best efficiency point could provide 80% efficiency. An older pump with worn impellers might provide efficiencies of 70 percent or less. 

    Pumps operate most efficiently within a narrow range of flows, and efficiencies decrease rapidly when asked to operate outside that range. For example, a pump that was sized to deliver 500 gallons per minute (gpm) at 80 percent efficiency may only perform at 70 percent efficiency when operating at 400 gpm. 

    Water Savings in Piping and Sprinkler Upgrades

    Piped conveyance systems also contribute to overall system efficiency. Not only can hydraulic problems result in wasted energy, but losses and leakage can result in wasted flow. While 10 percent leakage in pipes is common (and acceptable), improving to a 5 percent leakage rate is achievable—and tremendously valuable. 

    Finally, watering application efficiency (i.e., emitter type) can contribute dramatically to the total power bill. For example, a traditional impact sprinkler may be 75 percent efficient, while low-volume sprinklers may be 85 to 90 percent efficient. 

    Impact Sprinkler (75 percent efficient)

    Impact Sprinkler (75 percent efficient)

    Low-volume Emitter Sprinkler (90 percent efficient)

    Low-volume Emitter Sprinkler (90 percent efficient)

    How to Save a Tree Fruit Grower $20,000 and 440 acre-feet of Water

    Clearly, there are many opportunities to tighten up the “wire-to-water”, or in this case “wire-to-fruit,” efficiency. To help illustrate potential savings, consider a ranch with 500 acres of apples in North Central Washington. Hypothetically, the crops alone could take as much as 3.5 acre-feet of water per year. In this case, let’s assume that the irrigation method is with solid set over-tree impact sprinklers fed off an older series pump with an overall lift of 450 feet and an annual energy cost of approximately $57,000 (Current System; Table 1). Compare this to an optimized system with a premium-efficiency motor, properly-sized pump, limited leakage, and efficient emitters (Optimized System; Table 1).

    We find that the estimated pump-related power costs could be reduced by one third—about $20,000 in savings! This is due both to a lower water volume being pumped and better efficiencies of the pumps and motors. While there are certainly valuable applications for running over-tree watering applications (e.g., cooling), innovative practices such as installing shade cloth can help mitigate burning effects on fruit in lieu of sprinklers.  The cost of making that conversion could be justifiable if the benefit includes significant power or water savings.

    What to do with the Surplus Water? 

    In this example, not only has the grower now saved considerable expense related to power costs, but has also managed to save 440-acre feet of water. In water markets, the consumptive use savings have the highest value; and in this instance, approximately 170-acre feet of the water saved is considered consumptive use. Assuming this water is associated with a perfected (certificated) water right, there are a number of ways this grower could benefit:

    • Market the water and transfer through a transaction (note: current value of water is in the $2,500 per acre-foot range). 
    • Spread the water and plant additional acreage.
    • Protect the water for future use through temporary trust donation (relinquishment protection).
    • Seed a water bank for use in other locations. 

    Optimizing Your System Makes Sense from Many Perspectives

    There is considerable value in looking at ways to better optimize your power and water use. Financial savings can come in the form of lower energy bills simply by modernizing and properly maintaining your system. However, the rewards of conserving water are not limited to lower power bills. In many cases, it is important to consider the market potential of water savings also. The first step to any of this is a power and water use analysis in consultation with a water resources professional.  

    Meet Breeyn Greer

    Breeyn Greer recently joined Aspect's Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know her better.

    Breeyn Greer, Staff Environmental Engineer

    Breeyn Greer, Staff Environmental Engineer

    1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 

    I was born and raised in Minneapolis. However, I haven’t lived there for a decade, so while I am proud of my roots I can’t really hold a conversation about the city. Since then, I’ve lived in Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Blacksburg Virginia, and my car. I had a summer job in Seattle in 2015 and fell in love with the area. I can’t wait to explore it more. 

    2.    What inspired you to pursue environmental engineering? What made you curious about it? 

    I have an affinity towards complex problems. After a couple of years working for a traditional Civil firm, I realized that the repetitive process of grading and utilities would not keep me inspired for a career-length amount of time. In the case of Environmental Engineering, there is also the added element of human impact and chemistry.

    3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 

    I like soil and water, that’s been a lifelong commitment. What excites me and keeps me going is the multitude of applications of this passion. Here at Aspect alone, one could look at a site from pre-construction (Geotech) to a decade post-contamination (Remediation), and to me that’s more interesting than development. I am continually amazed by the ways in which humanity leaves its footprints on the earth, and looking forward learning more about the ways in which we try to remove them.

    4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 

    When I am not at work I can be found running, hiking, camping, yoga-ing, or eating. My passions outside of work can generally be summed up as: being outdoors, moving my body, or enjoying consumables. I spent a lot of my young-adult life bartending and have since translated that interest into wine-tasting and coffee cupping. 

    5.    Things I don’t like:

    • Kitchen appliances that are redundant or have just one function. Seriously, why have a coffee maker, French press, Chemex, and an espresso maker? Electronic vegetable choppers? Automated wine openers? Please, bartenders open 50 bottles a night and they aren’t even using electronic ones. 
    • Magazine subscription inserts in the magazine you already subscribe to. These obviously have two fates: 1) on the floor, which you then have to clean up or 2) stuffed back into the magazine until they eventually fall out and end up on the floor. 

    Point being, I have a dry sense of humor. 

    The Hirst Decision: The Water Law that Halted WA's Budget

    While critical to water use and supply in Washington state, water rights typically keep a low profile in the public eye. That's all changed over the last couple of weeks as the Hirst decision has made the headlines as a key political sticking point that has, for now, stopped the state's $4 billion capital construction budget from being approved.

    With the spotlight on this landmark water use decision, Aspect's Dan Haller was interviewed by the Yakima Herald to help understand it. The article also hears from builders and counties grappling with what Hirst means for them. 

    Read it here:  Reporter's Notebook: Wondering about the Hirst decision, the state Supreme Court water use case that became a key political tactic in Olympia? Read this primer.

    The State of Water Banking in Washington -- Aspect at Law Seminar International

    Aspect's Dan Haller will be presenting on the practical implentation issues of Water Banking in Washington State at Law Seminars International on Tuesday July 25 in Seattle.

    With water policy presently in the forefront of the state's political arena, water managers across the state are hunting for better solutions to manage water supply. Water banking is a relatively young but promising water policy approach that builds a framework, based in science, of transferring and using water across a municipality.

    Water banking has promise because it's better at solving one-to-many water authority issues than traditional water transfers and can be more advantageous under the water code than traditional transfer.

    Dan will be presenting alongside Peter H. Dykstra, with Plauche and Carr LLP and Kristina Nelson-Gross with the City of Sequim.

    Visualizing the Gender Wage Gap at the 2017 ESRI Conference

    In the map-making world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), ESRI is the de facto software of the industry. To keep up on all things GIS-related, Aspect’s GIS crew attends conference and networking events, including this year’s annual ESRI User Conference in San Diego.

    Aspect's Senior GIS Analyst Robyn Pepin (far left), other members of WWGT, and ESRI President Jack Dangermond (middle) at the 2017 ESRI User Conference.

    Aspect's Senior GIS Analyst Robyn Pepin (far left), other members of WWGT, and ESRI President Jack Dangermond (middle) at the 2017 ESRI User Conference.

    This year, Senior GIS Analyst Robyn Pepin attended the conference representing both Aspect and Washington Women in GIS and Technology (WWGT). Several members of Aspect’s GIS staff participate in WWGT -- a group who together promote a diverse work community by providing support and opportunity for women to advance their spatial careers. 

    At this year’s conference, WWGT submitted a poster to ESRI’s annual contest: Washington State Gender Wage Gap in the Work Force. This poster was designed to encourage a data-driven conversation surrounding the gender wage gap and included the history of women’s contribution to the technology field. Aspect’s Kaitlin Schrup contributed a historical timeline graphic to the poster, and Robyn Pepin presented the group’s poster with other WWGT members

    To learn more about WWGT, check out their Facebook page: 

    Check out a story map about the poster here:

    Staff Meeting at 6200 ft.

    An impromptu Aspect staff meeting took place atop Mount Townsend (ele. 6,260 ft.) on the Olympic Peninsula last weekend. Staffers Henry Haselton and Dave McCormack were hiking along one of the trails when they ran into their colleague Na Hyung Choi, who had started up from the Upper Trailhead earlier in the day.

    Items on the agenda included the gorgeous array of wildflowers and various streams created from the melting snowpack. But the main topic of discussion was the breathtaking view, which included Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, the faintest hint of Mount St. Helens, and Puget Sound stretched out like a cat at their feet.

    Aspect’s Nickerson and Berkompas Develop New Rain Garden Performance Tool

    Aspect’s Curtis Nickerson and Bryan Berkompas recently developed a promising new, low-cost, telemetered rain garden performance tool – the Water Detector -- that can help cities and counties improve rain garden performance.

    As more people move to western Washington and settle in its urban areas, stormwater runoff from streets, driveways, lawns, and rooftops is recognized as a major source of pollution impacting our waterways. To counter this continuing and growing threat, municipalities are encouraging broader public awareness and tools that public and business can use to clean polluted runoff as close to the source as possible. In this effort, rain gardens have become a major component of municipal stormwater management programs in western Washington.

    Figure credit:

    Rain gardens are a relatively low-cost natural filter and sponge, where runoff can infiltrate into the soil on-site rather than flowing directly into storm drains, streams or lakes.  Rain gardens are affordable to install, are an attractive landscaping feature, and are relatively easy for home owners to maintain. In Seattle, rain gardens and associated “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” (GSI) manage nearly 100 million gallons of polluted runoff annually.

    While raingardens are seeing more and more adoption across Western Washington, measuring performance has been an area that has seen improvement. Typical methods – such as measuring flow rates--are costly and out-of-reach for typical municipal programs to widely adopt. To help resolve this data quality issue, Berkompas and Nickerson designed the Water Detector to give users a low-cost tool to see how well their rain gardens are performing.

    The Water Detector is a low-cost, telemetered tool that measures a rain garden’s hydraulic performance.  

    The target users for the Water Detector are municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permittees (cities and counties) in Western Washington and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)s promoting the wide-scale use of Low Impact Development (LID) practices, including rain gardens.  Recently, all NPDES permittees in Western Washington revised their local development regulations to make LID methods, including rain gardens, “the preferred and commonly-used approach to site development.” Large investments by local governments for rain garden installations have already occurred and will continue to occur under the assumption that these facilities are working as intended. The Water Detector units could be deployed for a relatively low cost at hundreds of rain gardens across the region, providing real-world data to help assess the benefits of using rain gardens for decentralized stormwater flow-control on a broad-scale.

    The initial target application for the Water Detector would be to assess a rain garden’s hydraulic performance. The single most important measure of rain garden performance, or lack of performance, is overflow or bypass, when excess runoff flows around or out of the rain garden instead of soaking into the soil. The Water Detector would be used to detect and record when and for how long the water level in a rain garden is at or above this bypass level. Data would then be uploaded automatically to cloud-based data storage via cellular or blue tooth technology. An additional potential application of this technology is monitoring bypass events at engineered stormwater treatment or detention systems to assess/alert when system maintenance is needed.  These data will help to assess and improve site evaluation and design methods, document long-term performance, and develop effective maintenance methods for rain gardens.

    Prototypes have been developed, and Curtis and Bryan are currently identifying locations to test and deploy their Water Detectors. For more information, reach out to Curtis Nickerson ( or Bryan Berkompas (

    Meet Chris Augustine and Kaitlin Schrup

    Chris Augustine and Kaitlin Schrup recently joined Aspect -- Chris in our Portland office and Kaitlin in our Seattle office.  Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

    Chris Augustine, Senior Hydrogeologist


    1.  Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. After grad school, I decided that I wanted to live someplace where I could enjoy the same outdoor adventures as North Carolina and set my sights on the Cascades and moved across country to Ashland, Oregon. I eventually moved to the other end of I-5 to Portland, Oregon and have lived here over 16 years now.

    2.  What inspired you to pursue hydrogeology? What made you curious about it? I started off as a chemical engineering major but switched focus after my first geology class. It was a science that played to my strengths and interests and seemed to require a lot of time outdoors doing “field work” – code for hiking around mountains and banging on rocks, which was more exciting than Chemistry Lab. Once I entered grad school I got “red rock” fever and began studying volcanic processes of the volcanic front in southwestern Guatemala for my thesis. I spent most of my class time studying environmental-focused courses like hydrogeology, geochemistry, and shallow subsurface and borehole geophysics.

    3.  What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? My favorite types of projects are ones that require looking at problems in a unique way or require integrating many different solutions. Coming up with value-added or innovative solutions to these sometimes complex technical or regulatory challenges for my clients keeps my interests piqued.

    4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working? At the moment, my focus is on keeping up with my 4-year-old son and his fixation on everything Legos. I look forward to getting back in the routine of camping, cycling, mountain biking, snowboarding and whitewater kayaking as he grows and can explore the Cascades and the Pacific Northwest outdoors with his Dad, the weekend warrior.

    5.  Where in the world would you like to travel next? I am hoping to visit South America again. I really want to see parts of the Andes in Chile and Argentina. There are also a lot of classic whitewater destinations in Chile like the Futaleufu and phenomenal national parks that draw me to there. Closer to home I would like to get out to the Steens Mountains -  even though it seems a world away! 

    Kaitlin Schrup, GIS Analyst

    1.  Where are you from? In my formative years, I grew up in Central Eastern Washington on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. My family has a long tradition in serving Native American tribes. This tradition engraved the importance of preserving natural resources, tribal culture, and sovereignty at an early age. In middle school, I moved to Western Washington on the Enumclaw plateau. In college, I lived near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, and studied abroad in the Middle East, which profoundly changed my life. I can still speak a little broken Arabic and Swahili. After college, I moved back home to the beautiful Pacific Northwest to work in the non-profit sector.

    2.  What inspired you to pursue Geographical Information Systems (GIS)? My first love was computerized drafting and design. However, I felt at the time policy was more of an effective method to make a difference in the world, so I graduated with my undergrad in political science with a focus on environmental politics. I wanted a method to combine my love of design and policy, and I found that with GIS and cartography. The study and practice of GIS focuses on holistic thinking to tell a story through visualizations. Maps are amazing at telling stories and influencing policy.

    3.  What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? My passion and commitment are to serve my community through developing meaningful GIS solutions and geospatial technology to assist people to solve their problems and discover insightful information to accomplish their goals. I strive and love to continuously learn in general. The GIS and geospatial technology sector are continuously being innovated with new ideas and technological application. My Master’s program was focused on the development of geospatial technology, so I am always trying to learn more about online map application programming. One of my favorite topics to ponder is “Big Data” and the implications that technology place upon our society.

    4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When I am not working, I constantly seek out my next adventure or working on my passion project. I love to travel and learn about new cultures and customs.  I am a retired competitive swimmer and enjoy snorkeling/scuba diving in warm waters. I enjoy exploring the Pacific Northwest with loved ones. During the warmer months, I enjoy camping and hiking. During the colder months, I head up to the mountains for snowboarding or snowshoeing. I also love to run and hanging out with my two little beautiful nieces. I am also a huge animal lover, so I am always seeking out someone to talk with about his or her pets.

     5.  Where in the world would you like to travel next?  This is a hard question. I would like to travel to either the Serengeti or Chile.  One of my dreams would be to see the great migration along the Serengeti. Hiking within the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region has been on my bucket list. Also, I have been fascinated with Easter Island since I was a little girl. Plus Chile has great food and beverages.

    Groundwater Models: A Powerful Tool in the Hydrogeology Toolbelt

    Meteorologists have them. Economists have them. And so do hydrogeologists. Complex computer models, backed by powerful processing power, help us understand and predict weather, wall street, and water. Indeed, groundwater models as predictive tools to forecast water movement and availability are a critical part of a hydrogeologist’s toolbelt.

    Recently, Aspect hydrogeologists Seann McClure and Aaron Pruitt attended and presented posters at groundwater modeling’s premiere conference: MODFLOW and More, hosted in Golden, Colorado.

    Seann (left) and Aaron (right) in front of their posters at MODFLOW and More

    MODFLOW, the three-dimensional groundwater model developed by the USGS, is the industry standard for simulating and predicting groundwater conditions, and has been used to simulate everything from the impacts of climate change on groundwater/surface water interactions to the fate and transport of groundwater contamination to the intrusion of seawater into deep aquifers due to water supply developments. The conference is held every two years by the Colorado School of Mine’s Integrated Groundwater Modeling Center, and draws an international list of attendees from the consulting, academic, and government spheres to discuss all things MODFLOW and groundwater modeling.

    Seann and Aaron each presented a poster describing Aspect groundwater modeling work. 

    Applying Modelling Techniques to Evaluate Wetland Restoration Options Next to One of the Nation’s Busiest Airports

    Seann’s poster presented on Aspect’s years-long work at Lora Lake wetland restoration, located adjacent to SeaTac Airport. The presentation, Groundwater Modeling to Support Wetland Restoration of a Former Peat Mine, discusses groundwater modeling completed to evaluate alternative cleanup scenarios at a former peat mine-turned-suburban lake located next to the SeaTac Airport’s new Third Runway. The lake has historically received stormwater discharge impacted by dioxin/furans and is being restored to a scrub-shrub wetland to remediate contaminated lake sediments through capping and filling in the lake. The groundwater modeling, sediment cap, and wetland restoration is part of a larger environmental remediation and construction effort led by Floyd|Snider on behalf of the Port of Seattle that also includes excavation of impacted sediments in the neighboring parcel.

    Groundwater Modeling to Help Bolster Water Supply Resiliency for the City of Seattle

    Aaron’s poster presented Aspect’s work on assisting a large Puget Sound public agency with predicting water supply availability in an urban area. The poster, Solving the Water Supply Puzzle: MODFLOW and Uncertainty in the Context of Mitigated Water Rights, focuses on the complexity of quantitative analysis necessary to satisfy permitting standards under Washington’s water rights regulations. Recent State Supreme Court decisions constrain mitigation options to those that meet a high bar of being “in-kind, in-place, and in-time”. This means any change to water levels or flows in a closed basin, no matter how small, is considered an impairment, and therefore grounds for rejection of a new water right. This stringent benchmark is even more difficult to deal with when it comes to using numerical groundwater flow models. Groundwater modeling requires simplifying assumptions about the system, which adds a layer of quantitative uncertainty on top of this already rigorous standard. In support of Seattle Public Utility’s effort to permit a future groundwater supply source as a component of resiliency planning, Aspect used MODFLOW to explore various water rights permitting strategies to determine the most defensible approach to in-time, in-place, and in-kind mitigation that balances water rights protections with the agency’s need for new water supply options. 

    A Call to "Engineer with Soul"

    Aspect’s Principal Geologist Dave Cook recently wrote a compelling opinion piece in The Seattle Times about the need for engineers and scientists to do more, be more, and say more. Dave is encouraged about the country’s scientific and engineering future because more and more scientists and engineers are multiculturalists, sensitive, and empathetic.

    Read it here.