Desert lifer earns prestigious award from hydrology group

Clinton Laulo

Clinton Laulo, an environmental engineering major at Arizona State University, has been awarded the prestigious Herman Bouwer Intern Scholarship from the Arizona Hydrological Society.


Clinton Laulo grew up in Arizona visiting and learning about the state's natural water systems, such as Montezuma’s Well, and also many of the built water systems, including the dams.

“These excursions with my family and living in a desert made water one of the most exciting things to me as a child,” Laulo said.

Laulo,  It gives students enrolled in a hydrology-related discipline at any Arizona college or university the opportunity to gain practical experience.

The scholarship acknowledges Bouwer's extensive contributions to both the hydrological society and the science of hydrology. Bouwer was the chief engineer with the Water Conservation Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for many years, and his pioneering work in groundwater recharge with particular emphasis on the reclamation and reuse of sewage effluent through soil aquifer treatment was influential nationally and internationally.

The hydrological society arranged for Laulo to observe three areas of the water industry in Arizona: consulting, municipal and regulatory. He worked his first two weeks with Carollo Engineers, a water engineering consulting firm that has worked on projects in the Phoenix area for more than 80 years. He then spent two weeks with the city of Phoenix visiting wastewater treatment plants, potable water treatment facilities, and working with ground water systems and pumps. His final two weeks of the program was with the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Laulo did not go to college straight out of high school, but 10 years later the then-single father of three decided it was time to pursue his education.

“It was the best use of my time with the least impact on my boys,” Laulo said. “I decided I wanted to work as an engineer, and I love the outdoors. As a result, I chose to pursue environmental engineering and later realized my desire was hydrology.”

He started his secondary education at South Mountain Community College in 2012. After five terms at SMCC he transferred to the Civil Engineering program in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

During the 2016 spring semester Laulo was enrolled in CEE 361, an introduction to environmental engineering class taught by Bruce Rittmann, Regents’ Professor of Environmental Engineering and Director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. Rittmann encouraged him to apply for the scholarship and also taught him about public water needs, risks and processing methods.

“Clinton was among the top students in terms of a grade,” Rittmann said. “But what made him special was his exceptional degree of engagement with the topic and the class. He brought in information he found outside. He usually had good questions or answers in class. He clearly was a leader whose activities enriched the experience for everyone.”

Laulo wants to be an innovator in Arizona hydrology. “There is great disparity in the world today, and securing systems in deserts in developed areas such as Phoenix will be the trend-setting solution globally,” he said. “Sustainable water sourcing is a must for humanity. Here in Arizona, because of past policy, we have the ability to experiment on behalf of much of the deserts around the world. The potential we have here excites me.”

The need for continued work in hydrology in Arizona is at an all-time high, and Laulo earnestly desires to work with agencies, government and most of all people to solve problems for the community.

“I want an Arizona like the one I grew up in for my sixth-generation grandchildren, and for all generations after,” he said. “The challenge, that I am willing to rise and meet, is connecting private agency, government and the people that are served. This passion I have for Arizona and for people is why I will build relationships that will be maintained and leveraged for the future development of our great state.”

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