Lithium Water Sustainability

Funded By: BMW Group and BASF

Project Description

The Sustainable Lithium Project is investigating the extraction impacts of lithium extraction on the critical hydrologic environments in Latin America.

As the earth’s lightest metal, lithium is used in manufacturing batteries, ceramics, glass, and aluminum among other items. Lithium is also an essential raw material for producing lithium-ion batteries and plays a key role in vehicle electrification.

Two-thirds of the world’s lithium reserves are found in Latin America. However, there are many questions concerning how the hydrological systems work that sustains the brine and sensitive environmental systems. Through a public-private partnership with BMW Group and BASF, a team of research scientists from the UMass School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) and the University of Alaska Anchorage will explore the extraction impacts on the hydrologic system.  It is innovative work that will fill a critical gap in knowledge.

The final results of the study should be available in the first half of 2022 and will include a five-tier rating system. This rating is designed to provide companies with better guidance on sustainable lithium extraction in Latin America.

Principal Investigators: Dr. David Boutt and Dr. Lee Ann Munk


David Boutt, Ph.D. – Professor, School of Earth & Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass)

Dr. Boutt has 20+ years of research experience in field and computational hydrogeology, including  12 years combined experience at Silver Peak and Salar de Atacama lithium brine deposits, and Argentine Salars.

Lee Ann Munk, Ph.D. – Professor, University of Alaska Anchorage

Dr. Munk has 20+ years research experience in geology and aqueous geochemistry, including a combined 18 years of experience at Silver Peak and Salar de Atacama lithium brine deposits, and more recent experience at Salar de Antofalla, 3Q Salar, and several others in Argentina.


Drs. Boutt and Munk lead internationally recognized research laboratories that support the education and training of undergraduate, MS, and Ph.D. students.  They are international authorities on the hydrologic and geochemical functioning of salar environments.


Graduate Research Team Members


Daniel Corkran, MS/Phd Student, UMass

Daniel Corkran has 9 years of experience in environmental consulting, specializing in groundwater transport.


Jordan Jenckes, Ph.D. candidate, University of Alaska

Jordan Jenckes has 3 years of experience in database management and software engineering, including 1-year of geochemical modeling of freshwater-brine systems.


Sarah McKnight, Ph.D. candidate, UMass

Sarah McKnight has 4 years of research experience in density-driven modeling of salar transition zones and investigating impacts on the freshwater-brine interface.


Brendan Moran, Ph.D. candidate, UMass

Brendan Moran has 4 years of research experience in hydrogeology and hydroclimate of hyper-arid basins specifically in South America.

To Learn More

This groundbreaking project will offer new knowledge on how to sustainably extract lithium.  If you would like to learn more about our project and how we are making an impact, please drop us a line at