As appearing in | Jan., 2023 | by Coleman Cornelius

WATER WISE: A new way to gauge quality

AFTER SERVING SIX YEARS in the U.S. Marine Corps, Daniel Dominguez hit the road and drove through much of North America.

He stopped at many national parks, including Glacier National Park in Montana, where he learned about the quickening pace of glacier melt because of climate change. Dominguez realized a theme had emerged.

“Everywhere I went, everyone was talking about how water was going to be the big issue,” he recalled.

Dominguez was drawn to Colorado State University for its natural resources programs and started in 2017 with a major in watershed science. He became keenly interested in socioeconomic disparities in the availability of clean, running water. The topic hit home in part because Dominguez grew up the son of Mexican immigrants in an impoverished part of inner-city San Diego. His interest in water equity deepened when Dominguez traveled to villages in South Africa with a CSU study abroad program, and he witnessed onerous shortages of potable water.

“Even now, it makes me realize you have to travel to communities and really think about what the drivers of water quality are. What’s critical to people’s health and the contexts are always different,” said Dominguez, a first-generation college student. “I want to interact with communities and talk about their needs and how I can help them.”

His sense of responsibility took hold in the U.S. Marine Corps, when Dominguez worked as an avionics technician for the presidential helicopter squadron. Ultimately, that meant ensuring the president’s safety.

Dominguez graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 2020. Toward the end of his studies, he earned a prestigious Marshall Scholarship; that allowed him to attain a master’s degree in sustainable water environments at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, followed by a master’s degree in computer science at Cardiff University in Wales.

This summer, Dominguez will return to CSU in Fort Collins to begin doctoral studies funded by the National Science Foundation. His Ph.D. research will dive into an emerging field of study: development of advanced artificial intelligence algorithms to predict water quality. He plans to examine the technology’s use in rural communities.

“This is all about equal access,” Dominguez said. “I want to help make sure everyone can have high-quality water that isn’t going to cause adverse health effects.” 

Photo at top: Daniel Dominguez, 30, grew up in San Diego and graduated from CSU in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in watershed science. After earning two master’s degrees in the U.K., he’s returning to CSU for a doctorate.