Mike Hightower

B.S.C.E, 1975

M.S.C.E, 1977

Distinguished Member-Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories

Program Director, New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium, NMSU

As an Aggie

Mike Hightower grew up in Hobbs, New Mexico and graduating from high school in 1970. In the 6th grade he read a book on careers and became mesmerized with civil engineering and the opportunity to design bridges, dams, and buildings. He attended NMSU to participate in the co-op program as a way to pay for college and get experience. He alternated working for large engineering companies like Bechtel and Black and Veatch and then attending NMSU for six months at a time. He completed four work phases and then worked for two years for the NM Water Resources Research Institute while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering in 1975 and 1977. While at NMSU he participated in the first national ASCE concrete canoe design contest in 1973.

After Graduation

Mike worked for two years for McDonnel Douglas designing rockets and solar energy systems in California, and then returned to New Mexico to work for Sandia National Laboratories where he retired after 38 years as a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. While at Sandia he led national research programs on hard target weapon development, environmental remediation, transportation safety of liquified natural gas, energy infrastructure security and resiliency, energy and water sustainability, and nontraditional water treatment, desalination, and reuse. Mike has published over 150 technical reports, papers, and articles, including 3 book chapters, and material for articles in Scientific American and Nature.

Additional Ventures

As a young boy growing up in Hobbs, Mike was disappointed by what he thought was the inappropriate use of fresh water in the desert, and was determined to make desalination feasible and economical in order to save fresh water. In 2003 he helped develop the first U.S. roadmap for research to make desalination more economical, and led the development of the conceptual design for the Brackish Ground Water National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo. He currently volunteers his time in support of the New Mexico Desalination Association that he helped form in 2017, the NMSU Environmental Design Contest, and as program director of the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium at NMSU. The role of the Consortium is to treat and reuse oil and gas saline wastewater for fit-for-purpose uses, thus helping to eliminate the need for fresh water in the oil sector, and improving fresh water sustainability in New Mexico.

“In life there are talkers and there are doers. If you want to be successful, first, learn how to tell the difference, and second, work with the doers.”

-Mike Hightower