I was surprised when I was contacted last month by Brent Hess, with 'Tom Eakin' in the subject line. Turns out that he is the grandson of Tom Eakin, who just celebrated his 100th birthday in November 2014 and is alive and very well in Reno, NV on the flanks of the Great Basin.
Here is a recent photo of Tom playing golf in South Texas, where he schooled grandson Brent on the finer points of putting and chipping.
Brent went on to say that he came across my blog post on 'Megawatersheds' that cited Tom's work.
Wait a minute...the Tom Eakin? Wow, a name from my early days as a Great Basin regional hydrogeologist at the Desert Research Institute in the 1970s and 1980s. Tom is the man whose work was critical to our current understanding of Great Basin groundwater flow and the work I started almost 40 years ago.
Thomas E. 'Tom' Eakin was a long-time hydrogeologist for the USGS. I never met him nor did I ever hear him make a presentation. Much of his seminal work of interest to me was done long before I graduated from the University of Arizona in 1975. I remember him for two things: 1) the Maxey-Eakin method for estimating recharge; 2) regional groundwater flow in the Great Basin, especially Nevada.
The recharge work is in this report:
Maxey, G.B., and Eakin, T.E., 1949, Ground water in White River Valley, White Pine, Nye, and Lincoln Counties, Nevada: Nevada State Engineer, Water Resources Bulletin 8, 53 p.
The Maxey-Eakin method is pretty simple to use and gives a 'back-of-the-envelope' estimate of recharge to basins in arid and semi-arid regions. It is the basis for the estimates of perennial yield in Nevada's 212 or so hydrographic basins. I recall seeing a large map in 1976 after I arrived in Nevada. It had all the state's hydrographic basins with numbers for storage, perennial yield (essentially, the average annual recharge), runoff, and a few other figures. Knowing that Nevada had fewer than 500,000 residents with little groundwater information I wondered about the origin of those perennial yield figures. 'Maxey-Eakin method' was the terse response from a new colleague.
Tom's work provided the foundation for George Burke Maxey's classic 1968 paper, Hydrogeology of desert basins:
Interesting to note that Burke and Tom were contemporaries. Burke, my first boss, died in 1977 at age 59.
An example of Tom's regional groundwater flow work is in his classic paper:
Eakin, Thomas E., 1966, A regional interbasin groundwater system in the White River Area, southeastern Nevada. Water Resources Research, 2(2): 251-271.
You can check out all his Nevada publications in this 1980 bibliography (see pages 47-48) and this 1998 USGS publication on Great Basin regional groundwater flow. (pages A62-A63). The latter especially shows the significance of Tom's work establishing the template for our current knowledge of the regional nature of Great Basin groundwater flow, as shown below in the figure from the aforementioned 1998 publication by Jim Harrill and David Prudic. As far as I know, Tom was the first one to delineate regional (multi-basin) groundwater flow in Nevada (see his 1966 paper). Each one of the regional flow systems shown below encompasses a number of topographic basins.
Here is a 2007 summary publication on regional groundwater flow: Ground-water Chemistry Interpretations Supporting the Basin and Range Regional Carbonate-rock Aquifer System (BARCAS) Study, Eastern Nevada and Western Utah.
Here is a picture of Tom (third from the left) with some of his retired USGS colleagues, taken around 2010 (from this May 2011 publication).
So what is the big deal with regional groundwater flow? Coming up in a few days. Stay tuned.
I am unsure if Tom received the credit he deserves, but my students, Nevada colleagues, and I are cognizant of and thankful for his great contributions.
And I sure am glad this is not an obituary!
You go, Tom, and thanks!