Meet the Researcher: Mike Hightower, Research Professor, University of New Mexico

By Sam Fernald, NM WRRI Director

This month we are profiling Mike Hightower.  Before launching into his illustrious career and water-related research, it is important to note his important connection to the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute.  Mike worked for NM WRRI as a student employee from 1973-1977 when the institute was directed by John Clark.

Currently, Mr. Hightower is a Research Professor at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Water and the Environment.  After serving 38 years at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, Mike continues as a mentor on energy and water issues.  Mike holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from New Mexico State University and has 40 years of experience in space, weapons, and energy and natural resources research and engineering.  His focus the past two decades has been on the use of distributed and renewable energy and water treatment technologies to enhance economic development, global public health, and infrastructure and natural resource security and resiliency. Most recently, Mike has been appointed through NMSU to serve as the Program Manager for the NM Produced Water Research Consortium.

Since 2000 Mike has actively supported the Departments of Interior, State, Defense, and Energy in establishing science and technology programs to address energy and water sustainability issues and interdependencies. These efforts have centered on advanced treatment and desalination of non-traditional water resources such as brackish ground water, oil and gas produced water, and power plant cooling water in order to efficiently and cost effectively reduce fresh water use and supplement fresh water supply availability in inland areas.  Mike has had numerous articles and reports published on desalination and energy/water interdependencies including two reports to Congress, an article in Nature, an Energy Water Food research roadmap for the National Science Foundation, and chapters in three books.