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Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Colin Stockdale makes this connection in Bogotá, Colombia. This current event was reported in the city paper, on May 12, 2016, under the title, “The upstream battle for a cleaner Río Bogotá,” by Ed Buckley. This event is likely accurate and not “fake news” as contamination of the Bogotá River has been reported by many sources and a case study on Bogotá’s water pollution was recently conducted by The World Bank, an international financial institution.

Bogotá, the capital and most populated city of Colombia, is facing severe water pollution and ecosystem degradation due to large amounts of untreated wastewater from industrial and domestic sources entering the Bogotá River. The Rio Bogotá is one of the world’s most polluted waterways because it acts as a sewer for residents of Bogotá (Buckley, 2016). Bogotá discharges 22 m3/s of wastewater to the Bogotá River, of which only 20% receives primary treatment (The World Bank, 2012).  This event clearly relates to WRE as it falls under the scope of wastewater treatment. The current state of the Bogotá River is important news for WRE because existing wastewater treatment infrastructure has been inadequate to support the city’s population growth. The resulting contamination and poor water quality of the river present a serious risk to public health. The article identifies the sources of the wastewater discharge. It also describes some of the general clean-up efforts that have taken place and plans to improve the quality of the water. However, it does not provide specific information on infrastructure being implemented to reduce the amount of raw waste discharge.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are key factors controlling actions, and in some respects the lack of actions, that have been taken to restore and prevent further pollution of the Bogotá River. Economic issues are one of the main causes of Bogotá’s history of untreated wastewater discharge. The construction, operation, and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants is expensive and budget issues have prevented the city from making significant progress towards cleaning the river (Buckley, 2016). The initial plan to manage Bogotá’s wastewater was the construction of the Salitre primary wastewater treatment plant, located north of the city. The construction, operation, and eventual ownership of the plant was contracted to a private company due to the city lacking sufficient funding. A few years after construction, operation of the plant was turned over to a local municipal water utility (The World Bank, 2012). As part of the Columbian government’s updated management plan, multiple small-scale treatment plants will be constructed or existing treatment plants will be upgraded instead of installing new large-scale treatment facilities. The funding for these infrastructure improvements was made possible due to a loan from The World Bank in 2010 (Hazen). If Bogotá had not acquired a loan for these projects, restoration of the river would likely take much longer. Water resources engineering will have a direct impact on the restoration of the Bogotá River environment. Because it is the only current plant in Bogotá, the upgrading and expansion of the Salitre WWTP from a design flow of 4 m3/s to 7 m3/s will allow a larger amount of wastewater to be treated, therefore reducing discharge of raw sewage and harmful chemicals into the river (Hazen). In 2004, a strategic management plan released by the Colombian national government outlined activities for habitat restoration. The activities included WRE methods such as river embankment construction and the installation of riparian zones (The World Bank, 2012). The WRE has a clear impact on societal issues. As of 2005, Bogotá, Colombia had a population of about 7.9 million people, including the suburbs (Encyclopedia Britanica, 2018). Therefore, the city’s large population density and close proximity to the Bogotá River puts many people at risk of health problems associated with exposure to untreated wastewater. Potential contaminants include dangerous industrial chemicals, nutrients that cause eutrophication, and biological pathogens. Improving the quality of the discharged water by installing or upgrading existing treatment plants will help turn the river into a valuable societal asset. Checking individual home sewage connections could further reduce point source discharge of waste into the river. The water quality of the Bogotá River and its potential human health impacts are also reported in a study analyzing accumulation of heavy metals in catfish species caught in the river. Sampling during May-October 2005 produced results showing lead, chromium, and cadmium present above maximum contaminant levels for drinking water (Forero et al, 2009). Although little was initially done to prevent pollution of the Bogotá River, the growing efforts to implement WRE represent a cause and effect relationship. In this case, the cause is the pollution of the Bogotá River due to the discharge of untreated waste and the effect is the construction or expansion of wastewater treatment facilities to improve water quality and protect human health.


Figure 1. Bogotá River running through an open channel in Bogotá, Colombia.


Bogota River [digital image]. (2011, February 9). Retrieved from

Bogotá River Environmental Restoration Project: Upgrade/Expansion of Salitre WWTP. Hazen. Retrieved from

Buckley, Ed. (2016, May 12). The upstream battle for a cleaner Río Bogotá. the city paper. Retrieved from

Rodríguez Forero, A., González Mantilla, J.F. & Suárez Martínez, R. (2009). Accumulation of Lead, Chromium, and Cadmium in Muscle of capitán (Eremophilus mutisii), a Catfish from the Bogotá River Basin. Environmental Contamination Toxicology 57(2), 359-365. doi: 10.1007/s00244-008-9279-2

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2018, October 12). Bogotá. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.  Retrieved February 18, 2019, from

The World Bank. (2012). Integrated Urban Water Management Case Study: Bogota. Blue water green cities. Retrieved from



Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Daniel Pesci makes this connection in Paris, France. Paris is well known for the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph and the beautiful Seine river. In both 2016 and 2018 the city experienced record flooding1. The flooding effectively shut down large portions of the city. This current event was reported in the Chicago Tribune, on 29 January 2018, under the title, “France sees worst rains in 50 years, floods peak in Paris”, by Nicholas Garriga and Jeffrey Schaeffer”. The flooding was well documented and news agencies from around the world such as the BBC maintained consistent coverage of the floods even writing a similar article on the same day about the magnitude of the floods. 2

Many people associate Water resource engineers with maintaining clean drinking water, effective plumbing, and a sustainable water supply. Paris, which is well known for its clean drinking water, and a dual-water system that provides water separately for taps, versus supplying non treated water specifically for watering parks or washing streets. Some may not contribute measure taken to address the flooding as part of the WRE discipline of hydrology and its sub discipline of open channel flow. This is important news for WRE as Paris is one of the most famous cities in the world, and like many others it sits directly on the floodplain of the river that allowed it to grow. Major flooding events such as the 2018 and 2016 floods brought the attention of the world onto Paris and how it was handling and hopefully solving its flooding problem. The article written by Nicholas Garriga largely ignores the implications of the flooding. Leaving out information such as measures taken to reduce flooding, the extent of impermeable surfaces, and how channelized the river is. The bench mark for floods in Paris is the Great Flood of 1910 where the River Seine swelled to 8.62 from its normal flow of 1.5 meters on the Austerlitz scale. The Great Flood is considered to be a 100-year flood, making the city due for its next Great Flood. It is on water resource engineers to ensure the city, which accounts for 1/3 of the economic activity of France, is ready for such an event3.


Image 1 Shows the wide reaching impacts of water in Paris 4

Paris is Frances capital. Not only in the sense of it is where the national government is centered but it is a cultural and economic center as well. Paris is France’s economic heart. Any major disasters there will have a hugely negative effect on the whole country. As stated earlier Paris accounts for 1/3 of the economic activity in France. Recently much of the redevelopment in Paris has occured on the banks of the Seine. Higher value apartment buildings, shopping centers and entertainment complexes are replacing old warehouses, outdated power stations and old docks5. That meant that the 2018 flood had a more direct impact on critical roads, and apartment buildings. Not to mention the additional impacts such as the bateaux mooches (riverboats), the bottom floor of the Lourve Museum, the Riverside train stations which were all closed or stopped running for several days1. The shutdown of public transportation can have large impacts on tourists. The Riverside train stations provided a common way to get to Versailles, another popular tourist destination1. Whereas inhabitants such as those living in house boats were forced to relocate their homes or simply move to gyms in the city2. No source indicated that the flood waters negatively impact one demographic more so than another. Simply the fact that the people of Paris have depended on the River Seine for so long has prompted people to build first down by the water. In many cases directly on the formerly natural floodplain. Making it unsurprising that the flooding had such a wide impact on the city that everyone was impacted evenly. A common thought from most people was that this was yet another example of the effects of climate change1. Seeing the location of the Paris Climate Agreement being negatively impacted by the effects of climate change is ironic. Especially seeing as how the solutions to flooding for Paris have so far been grey infrastructure solutions such as dams, levees, and concrete lined channels instead of green projects like rain gardens and permeable surfaces.

The floods in Paris have highlighted the need the importance and wider range of the WRE’s area of responsibility. Paris’s problem is of how to handle high flow events. The WRE’s need to come up with a way to either move more water through the river or stop so much water directly entering into the river.


  1. Schaeffer NG and J. France sees worst rains in 50 years, floods peak in Paris. Accessed February 13, 2019.
  2. River Seine peaks in flood-hit Paris. Published January 29, 2018. Accessed February 13, 2019.
  3. “It’s just a question of when”: Paris still unprepared for inevitable “flood of the century.” Published January 25, 2018. Accessed February 14, 2019.
  4. Brueck H. The heart of Paris is underwater — and the images are a shocking reminder that the city is unprepared. Business Insider. Accessed February 14, 2019.
  5. Mitchell JK. European River Floods in a Changing World. Risk Analysis. 2003;23(3):567-574. doi:10.1111/1539-6924.00337


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Hayley Glover makes this connection in Karachi, Pakistan. This current event was reported in National Public Radio on Monday, September 10th, 2018 under the title, “For Karachi’s Water Mafia, Stolen H2O Is A ‘Lucrative Business”, by Diaa Hadid. This WRE event is likely to be accurate because water scarcity caused by municipal water theft has previously been covered by Circle of Blue, a scientific magazine that compiles articles, news and research.

Karachi, the capital of Sindh, Pakistan is currently in the midst of a water crisis leaving nearly 16 million people without running water. The root of this crisis is caused by a private group, largely known as the “water tanker mafia”. This group is responsible for tapping into the previously operating Karachi municipal water supply and redistributing this water for profit. According to residents, this is what caused the municipal water supply to run dry, forcing civilizations to purchase water at inflated rates from private water handlers. This article highlights a slum neighborhood in Karachi where water prices are set based on the quality of the water. Here water can cost as much as $150 U.S. dollars per month for clean government water. (Hadid, 2018) Those who cannot afford this price must settle for cheaper, polluted water.

This article highlights the importance of meeting water demand in distribution systems. Although not specified in this article, in order to implement a distribution system a demand must be estimated based on factors including population size and water availability based on water sources. Once a demand is established the system can be designed with a corresponding lifespan. Demands dictate sizing for the system’s pumps, pipes and tanks. Because the system was tapped, and water was extracted at unexpectedly high rates above the expected demand, the system’s lifespan decreased significantly, and water could not be provided for the residents.

The situation in Karachi is just one example of the impact water resources engineering has on issues regarding the economy, environment and overall society. The monopoly on water has depressed the economy of Karachi because people now must spend large portions of income on potable water, an expense they haven’t always had to consider. Being that water is a necessity for farming and agriculture, civilians are forced to cut back on the magnitude of their food production and for some, farming is a main source of income. While water tankers currently dominate the market, water must be collected multiple times a day to support families. This responsibility tends to fall on children who are compromising school time so they can collect water for their family. Education is an essential aspect of societal development and empowerment. Children are expected to stay at home and miss out on a formal education. Hadid does not bring up the environmental impacts of the distribution failure. However, a journal from the Fifteenth International Water Technology Conference (2011) discusses the presence of salinity in Sindh groundwater aquifers that are used for farming. Because water is not readily available farmers have resulted to rely on groundwater for crop irrigation. This negatively impacts the environment because excessive salt stresses plant life and reduces soil quality.


Figure 1. Children of Korangi (a Karachi neighborhood) making one of several trips to collect the daily water supply for their household


Figure 2. A tweet by a Pakistani water-oriented NGO calls attention to the impacts of water scarcity on the farming industry


Qureshi, A. L. Lashari, B. K. Kori, S. M. Lashari, B. M. HYDRO-SALINITY BEHAVIOR OF SHALLOW GROUNDWATER AQUIFER UNDERLAIN BY SALTY GROUNDWATER IN SINDH PAKISTAN Fifteenth International Water Technology Conference; 2011. Accessed on February 12, 2019

Hadid, D. National Public Radio. Stories From the Water Front: For Karachi’s Water Mafia, Stolen H2O Is A ‘Lucrative Business’. 2018, September 10. Accessed on February 12, 2019.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Sam Schneider makes this connection in Hyderabad India. This current event was reported in the Deccan Chronicle on January 12, 2019 under the title, Hyderabad: Water Crisis looms Large, by Maddy Deekshith. A study by Diganta Das published in the Journal of Geography Environment and Earth Science International concluded that there is an urgent need to address the problem of water accessibility in Hyderabad, especially for the poor (Das 2016).

This problem of water supply in Hyderabad India is not an uncommon one in other large cities around the world. The division of Water Resources Engineering this problem falls under is water supply and demand. Hyderabad is the fastest growing city in India and its population has outgrown its water supply infrastructure. This problem is important for WRE because it concerns the livelihood of millions of people. The report did not include how much of the water was used for agriculture/ irrigation, a major draw, or other uses. It could have been more specific in describing the multiple supply points of water for the city and their individual risks of running dry.

Hyderabad is a huge metropolitan area and it faces social, economic, and environmental issues just like other large cities. The water supply crisis is a significant economic issue for Hyderabad as an above average percentage of the population is poor. India is an agricultural country with about 80% of its water consumption used for irrigation. Sadly, most irrigation practices are inefficient and water waste is high. An irrigation technology known as drip irrigation which applies just the right amount of water to the base of the plant is used in some places but is more expensive. If this solution were able to be more widely implemented, the water used for irrigation could be cut significantly. The lack of water is directly affecting the people but it’s effect on the environment is more indirect. The water shortage has forced the city to start drawing water from places they wouldn’t otherwise. The ecosystems of the water sources that supply the cities are going to be impacted. This is a societal problem because a lot of people rely on the government to manage the water and don’t feel like they’re individually responsible for the problem. Most cities in India have experienced rapid growth and the resource infrastructure planning was either inadequate or nonexistent. Low priced urban water and a poor legal structure protecting it have led to habituated water malpractice. Researchers from the central Groundwater Resources Board of India have created a groundwater development index for major cities. The index is the ratio of groundwater usage to groundwater recharge. Hyderabad has the highest index in all of India at 400% and are projected to run out of water by 2020 along with 21 other major cities (Mishra 2018).

Research by Tove Larsen on solutions to water challenges of an urbanizing world shows that the problems Hyderabad is facing are the responsibility of all citizens.  He claims it is not enough to hope for technological breakthroughs or better government arrangements. He says that the development of new institutional conditions is the key (Larsen, 2016). Change from the common people is required in the ultimate solution to the water supply issue in Hyderabad. The water accessibility problem is caused by the city’s poor water supply management structure but can be remedied by a collective effort from all.


Figure 1. An Indian woman prepares to collect drinking water from a communal above ground water tanker.

Tweet: Hyderabad India water reserves low, monitor consumption everyone #savethewater


Das, D., Bernice, L., Rao, A., & Subbarao, G. (2016). Understanding Geographies of Water Accessibility in Hyderabad. Journal of Geography, Environment and Earth Science International,5(3), 1-9.

Deeksith, M. (Jan 12, 2019). Hyderabad: Water crisis looms Large. Deccan Chronicle.

Mishra, A., Panwar, N. (July 19, 2018). India’s water crisis is real: What will happen by 2020? Retrieved from

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Cory Lapidus makes this connection in New York City, United States. This current event was reported in The New York Times on January 18, 2018, under the title, A Billion-Dollar Investment in New York’s Water, by news author, Winnie Hu. Although the New York times is a well-respected media outlet, for accuracy purposes, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection website was used. The information used in Winnie Hu’s article is supported by the data and reports released by the NYC DEP.

New York City residents have always touted that they have some of the greatest drinking water in the country. Rightfully so, as they are one of the few cities left that can provide fresh, unfiltered water, straight from the reservoirs of southern New York to the faucets of downtown Manhattan with only some UV and chlorine treatment. However, this is only possible due to the large watersheds along the way that act as filtration plants for the water, providing New York City with their pristine water for making the best pizzas and bagels.

Most cities within the United States that use surface reservoirs for drinking water are required by federal regulations to filter and treat the water. NYC has made agreements with state health organizations that allows them to use unfiltered UV and chlorine treated water, straight out of the Catskills and Croton watersheds, if the water meets rigorous water quality standards. The major issue that comes with using unfiltered water is that the lands and waterways feeding into the reservoirs and watersheds cannot be polluted. Any significant pollution will revoke the agreement NYC has with state health organizations and force them into investing billions into water filtration plants. To maintain their high-quality water standards, NYC has committed $1 billion towards protecting the intricate water system that supports the city1.


Figure 1: The NYC water supply system is a complicated string of pipes and reservoirs, sourcing water from the Catskill and Croton watersheds.

The large sum of money will slowly be invested into different ongoing projects along the southern parts of New York. One fifth of the total investment will be used to upgrade waste water treatment plants used to capture vital effluent from the city which can be treated and released back into the water system. Almost $100 million will be used to purchase and protect land directly surrounding the waterways from pollution and misuse. $150 million of the budget will go into stream protection and maintenance throughout the watersheds. Such maintenance will include flood mitigation efforts and erosion control. Another $85 million will be used on a local scale to help residents and businesses in the critical watersheds upgrade their septic systems to help mitigate seepage of pollutants out of the tanks1.

This commitment is huge regarding water resources engineering, which shows that the government of New York City understands how vital it is to protect the water we drink. Despite water not being as marvelous as a new bridge or public park, NYC officials want to invest in the future of their drinking water and in doing such, are providing an incredible conservation service to thousands of acres of land surrounding their reservoirs. In the end, the environment will benefit through increased protection and the people of NYC will benefit from a continued supply of fresh and safe drinking water. The only issue is that some people are being forced to relocate out of the heavily forested areas of Southern NY to ensure the best protection possible from pollution and runoff. As stated, if the protection of these regions fail, NYC will have to invest billions of dollars into water treatment plants which will cost over $100 million annually1 and will trickle down in the form of significant price jumps for the NYC residents, further increasing the exorbitantly high cost of living3.

Hopefully, the focus that NYC officials have put on water will trickle down to other municipalities throughout the nation. In Brazil, officials have also come to the same conclusions. A study by Kroeger et al. examined the costs and benefits of protecting watersheds that feed the drinking supply of cities. They also decided that the maintenance and protection of clean water supplies is an enormous issue that is beginning to plague municipalities across the globe as urban expansion ramps up and populations explode. Many cities do not have the budget that NYC maintains to fund such large projects and thus, do not have enough money to support their dying water infrastructure. However, any amount invested into conservation and protection will go a long way towards ensuring water quality and safety in the future2.



Hu W. A Billion-Dollar Investment in New York’s Water. The New York Times. Published January 18, 2018. Accessed February 2, 2019.

Kroeger et al. Assessing the Return On Investment in Watershed Conservation. :50.

Welcome to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Homepage. Accessed February 2, 2019.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Justin Rosenberg makes this connection in Shanghai, China. This current event was reported in The Guardian, on December 23, 2016, under the title “Shanghai water supply hit by 100-tonne wave of garbage,” by Benjamin Haas. This event is unlikely to be fake news, and it’s accuracy is bolstered and facts backed-up by its coverage in the Shanghai Daily.

Shanghai’s water supply is under threat from literal waves of garbage. The Dongfengxisha Reservoir, one of four reservoirs serving as a source of drinking water, and fed by the city’s Huangpu River, has been found inundated by waste illegally dumped from boats upstream (Haas, 2016). This shocking event clearly relates to WRE, as it falls under the purview of water distribution, and more specifically, water and wastewater treatment, as the water supply is highly polluted. The revelations of this widespread dumping are important news for WRE because as it greatly impacts the water security and safety of up to 700,000 people and impacts one of the chief tenets of WRE: to provide people with consistent and safe drinking water, both of which are not fully accomplished because of the pollution.  Although the article provides key information on the source of the garbage, as well as specific constituents of the waste, it fails to provide more detailed information on specific clean-up efforts, those responsible for the dumping, and results from water quality tests of the drinking water supply.

The detrimental dumping practices have serious and far-reaching economic, environmental, and societal issues. The threat to Shanghai’s water supply carries great economic impact. Because of the sheer load of garbage, the city water authority must pour money into costly programs and efforts to ensure proper clean-up. The Shanghai Water Authority has been performing water tests with increased frequency and specificity, which incurs higher costs (Haas, 2016). The city has deployed workers to salvage garbage from the river bank, and the Chongming water authority has carried out a garbage collection campaign; although the combined efforts have salvaged more than 100 tons of garbage, the Dongfengxisha Reservoir remains teeming with trash (Haas, 2016; Jian, 2016). Additionally, Shanghai must invest more money into water treatment efforts, as the leachate from the waste contains extremely harmful substances, such as chlorobenzene (Haas, 2016). The city water authority has also had to organize enhanced patrols of the downstream Qingcaosha Reservoir, to maintain the efficacy of another major tap water source for downtown residents (Jian, 2016). All these factors contribute to economic strain on the city’s resources and water infrastructure, and the current problems limit further development and innovation. Shanghai’s “garbage wave” presents clear environmental issues. The floating garbage threatens upstream ecosystems; much of the garbage has been found in reed marshes and wetlands near the reservoir, and wildlife has been trapped or smothered by the trash. The waste has greatly increased the amounts of toxic compounds in the water supply. Chlorobenzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and various medical wastes have accumulated in the water far above safe limits (Haas, 2016; Liu et al., 2009). The influx of nutrients from the waste can lead to increased algal blooms, which then die-off and decompose, creating hypoxic zones detrimental to fish and other aquatic life. This WRE event has sweeping societal impacts, paramount among these is the safety of Shanghai’s residents. The pollution of the reservoir, and Huangpu River in total, have contributed to nosebleeds, rashes, and severe illness, such as leukemia. Harmful chemicals have been introduced into the water supply; high concentrations of chlorobenzene were detected, and in some locations were found to be nearly 100,000 times above the safe limit (Haas, 2016). Chief among the garbage is medical waste; used hypodermic needles, catheter bags, and IV sacks have washed ashore in astounding numbers, and these present evident health hazards, such as communicable diseases and physical injury. Mei et al. demonstrated a similar finding in their examination of the Huangpu River. They found overall concentrations of personal care products and pharmaceuticals (PPCPs) to be as high as 1455 ng/L and attributed this to leachate from medical waste as well as untreated wastewater entering the river (Mei et al., 2017). The WRE has a clear effect on societal issues, as the increase in PPCPs can directly linked to the influx of medical waste, presenting a clear and present danger to public health and safety. The trust of Shanghai’s residents in the city government has also been strained; despite various complaints about the condition of the drinking water, local officials have largely ignored these claims. The city also claimed water tests revealed the water supply remained uncompromised, yet have halted the flow from the Dongfengxisha Reservoir, further fraying the trust of the public in the government (Haas, 2016).


Figure 1: Waste accumulated along an abutment of the Dongfengxisha Reservoir. Many sites along the reservoir and the shores of Huangpu River emulate this scene.


Haas B. Shanghai water supply hit by 100-tonne wave of garbage. The Guardian. Published December 23, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2019.

Jian Y. Suspects held after garbage engulfs island. Shanghai Daily. Published December 12, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2019.

Liu Y, Chen L, Huang Q-hui, Tang Y-jian, Zhao J-fu. Source apportionment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in surface sediments of the Huangpu River, Shanghai, Chin. Science of the Total Environment. 2009;407(8):2931-2938.

Mei X, Sui Q, Lyu S, Wang D, Zhao W. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the urban river across the megacity Shanghai: Occurrence, source apportionment and a snapshot of influence of rainfall. Journal of Hazardous Materials. 2017;359:429-436.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student John Perez makes this connection in Seoul, South Korea. This current event was reported by United Press International, on May 18th, 2016, under the title, “North Korea flooded South without notice, Seoul says”, by Elizabeth Shim. This is likely accurate and not “fake news” as it has been reported by several news sources including Business Insider in their article “North Korea released water from a dam near the South Korean border just because it could.” A large number of articles were also published in 2009 reporting on similar issues.

The Imjin river runs from North Korea into South Korea before passing through the South Korean city of Seoul. As far back as the 1980s North Korea has shown interest in releasing water from the Kumgangsan Dam to flood Seoul. In October 2009 North and South Korea had agreed to give prior notice before discharging water from dams along the river. On May 16th, 2016 the North violated that agreement and released water at a rates up to 515 tons per second into the river. The sudden influx of water was an assault on South Korea’s waterways flooding some residents’ homes and causing local fishermen to suspend work for two days. WRE is a broad field but this particular incident was an example of mis-managing surface water resources (unless these actions were intentional). The awareness of issues such as these are important to the WRE community as it brings awareness to the impacts our actions pose to those living downstream of us, both literally and figuratively. This article isn’t very specific on the exact areas of the city which were impacted. It also doesn’t give the location of the dam in North Korea, this is information I wasn’t able to find either.

As many of us know most cities are built near easily accessible water supplies as it is an essential resource to human life. WRE events impact all areas of civilization including economic, environmental and societal issues. The risk of flooding impacts effects the way in which people live around water, in this event people’s homes were flooded and the local fishermen had to wait two days before working again. This could be considered a societal as well as an economic impact. South Korea has been impacted economically in other ways, as they have invested in fortification measures along other rivers in the country. The “Peace Dam” was constructed just for this reason. In 1987 construction began to protect South Korea’s waterways from the possibility of North Korea flooding Seoul during the 1988 Olympic games (Choe, 2007). Looking into the future we need to begin to think of how similar events will impact us as a species, as the costs of flooding events have begun to rise dramatically in more recent years (Allaire, 2018). Environmental impacts unfortunately weren’t alluded to in this article. However, it is likely that the sudden increase in water volume would cause the river to cut deeper into its bed and disturb vegetation. Water is a resource which we cannot live without, however water which is poorly manage can pose a major threat to life and property, it may even be weaponized.


Figure 1. The “peace dam” in South Korea. Built in response to help manage flood waters being sent from North Korea into South Korea in the event that the a dam were to collapse. Image credit: Hankyoreh


Allaire, M. (2018). Socio-economic impacts of flooding: A review of the empirical literature. Water Security, 3:18-26.

Choe, S.-H. (2007, August 28th). Peace Dam Still Waits for the Flood That Never Came. The New York Times.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Rebecca Barkan makes this connection in Istanbul, Turkey. This current event was reported in Circle of Blue on Thursday, April 19th, 2018, under the title, “Drought, Pollution, and Expansion Imperil Istanbul’s Best-Laid Water Plans”, by Kayla Ritter. The events explained in this article are likely accurate and true because there are journal articles previously written about the drought hazard and water shortages in Istanbul by a Professor at Istanbul University (Turoglu, 2016). There have also been related news articles written about some of Istanbul’s “mega projects”, including the potential environmental and water resources disaster a new canal, Canal Istanbul, may cause as seen in a National Geographic article.

As Istanbul attempts to overcome their water shortage dilemma they are beginning to evaluate their water management practices. This falls under the realm of WRE in the drinking water supply sector because as Istanbul’s population grows at a rapid pace, there is going to be a greater demand for drinking water. As the effects of climate change cause more and more droughts, the city of Istanbul will have to carefully manage their water resources to ensure its citizens will not face a water crisis (Ritter, 2018). Istanbul’s main concern in this matter stems from the drought and dry years it has experienced over the past decade, causing their reservoirs to drop to 25 percent of their maximum capacity which may become more normal as time goes on in this area (Ritter, 2018). This is especially important news for WRE because more and more cities are going to face water shortages in coming years like Cape Town, South Africa recently experienced. Understanding why these shortages are happening, how countries can prepare for them, and how everyone can utilize better water management practices will be essential to these places and around the world. However, this specific article fails to mention how Istanbul compares to other cities facing water shortages, something that would greatly help the reader understand the true risk to Istanbul in a more tangible way. As well, it mentions that pollution greatly threatens Istanbul’s water supply, but does not mention what those pollutants consist of which is essential when it comes to the treatment and later distribution of these water systems.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are incredibly important in this WRE engineering event as the impacts of all these themes must be considered in a city’s water management plan. Will changing where a city receives its drinking water affect the economy? Will these changes harm the environment around the water source? How will these changes affect the people around them? These are all important questions that must be considered when discussing drinking water supply. In Istanbul, economic issues are driving the city’s mega projects including Canal Istanbul, the construction of which will supposedly be improving the economy by boosting the construction sector but may in turn further damage Istanbul’s water supply (Farooq, 2018). However, this is in turn causing environmental issues by impacting 40 percent of Istanbul’s water resources in the uprooting of dams and disruption of streams and underground water tables that feed lakes (Farooq, 2018). This causes a major issue because most (98 percent) of Istanbul’s water supply comes from surface water such as reservoirs causes by dams, lakes, and rivers (Turoglu, 2016). Societal impacts are also inevitable in this situation because the water quality of these reservoirs is also in danger because of pollution from industrialization and illegal settlements along these reservoirs, endangering the health of Istanbul’s citizens (Ritter, 2018). Another societal impact includes the massive population growth that Istanbul is experiencing as its current population of 15 million continues to expand by about three hundred thousand people each year, all who require water and who will inevitably contribute to Istanbul’s water supply issue (Ritter, 2018). This societal impact will not just be seen in Istanbul and has already been noted in Cape Town where population growth has led to competition between agriculture and urban people who use and need water (Ziervogel et al., 2010). The issue of an increased population has a direct cause-effect relationship with water supply. As a population increases, the demand for water also increases and as issues like drought, pollution, conflict and other such issues become more common, there is also less and less water for people leading to a water shortage and potentially, a water crisis. The need to find better water management practices is essential as the world population grows and climate change continues to change the world around us.


Figure 1. Reservoir in Istanbul dropped during drought in the summer of 2014 to below 30 percent capacity. Istanbul residents were told to conserve water because of the drought, and climate scientist believe this may become the new normal for Istanbul. Pictures like this show the water shortage issues people in potentially water scarce regions may experience.


Farooq, U. (2018). Will Istanbul’s Massive New Canal Be an Environmental Disaster?. National

Geographic. Retrieved from


TURKEY. Hydrology and Water Resources, 1, 259-266.

Ritter, H. (2018). Drought, Pollution, and Expansion Imperil Istanbul’s Best-Laid Water Plans

Retrieved from

Ziervogel, G., Shale, M., & Du, M. (2010). Climate change adaptation in a developing country

context: The case of urban water supply in Cape Town. Climate and Development2(2), 94-110.

Water Resource Engineering (WRE) requires engineers to meet current needs while expanding capacity as needed for the future. Our student Meghan Medwid makes this connection in Manila, The Philippines. This current event was reported in The Philippine Star on August 30, 2018, by Louise Maureen Simeon. Manila Water Co., Inc., which is responsible for providing water and sanitation to much of Metro Manila, has expressed concern about providing for the city’s growing water need for several years. The company claims that without additional infrastructure, residents may face water shortages or drops in water quality. This specific challenge to meeting water demand is unlikely to be “fake news.” Other news outlets in the city, including Business World also reported on an impending water shortage starting in 2021.

Manila Water Co., Inc. currently is developing several large water resources to increase the water available to their current and future customers. The company is part of a hydroelectric project associated with the Kaliwai Dam; part of the water from that reservoir will be available for use by Manila Water Co., Inc. upon completion of the project. However, based on current and expected demand, Manila Water Co., Inc. sought to build a treatment facility on Laguna Lake to increase water availability. This proposal was denied (Simeon, 2018). The predicted water shortages may mean customers inconsistently have enough water, there may be outages, and pressure in the pipes may be too low to prevent infiltration into the pipes. If non-treated water infiltrates, the residual chlorine may not be able to prevent contamination by outside pathogens (Simeon, 2018). Planning for water demand and ensuring safe, potable water are both areas of high importance in WRE (Chin, 2013). Water resource engineers around the world are scaling up water treatment and trying to find new sources of water for ever growing cities. Learning how to better work with municipalities in order to prevent insufficient service is an increasingly important part of WRE. The article does not explain the quality or quantity of water in Laguna Lake or explain alternatives to that lake that may help Manila Water Co., Inc. provide water while the dam project is being completed.

WRE takes places in the context of economic, environmental, and societal issues. The cost for providing sufficient water in the future needs to be considered with the people being asked to pay for this new facility and the environmental impacts of increased water consumption. The Kaliwai Dam project is expensive and is already leading to an increased rate hike for Manila Water Co., Inc. customers. The official reason for not approving the new facility is that it will be too expensive. The Laguna Lake project would lead rates to almost double. Manila citizens who depend on Manila Water Co., Inc. have expressed concern about insufficient safe water in the future (Simeon, 2018).  The societal and social issues are intertwined as Manila Water Co., Inc. is a for-profit organization. This complicates the responsibilities of decision makers. This may also mean that additional capacity could be added by the company but may result in lower profits or bonuses. Large scale water resource projects can have negative environmental consequences. Many organisms can be displaced and whole habitats can be removed. This environmental damage can lead to additional social unrest as people protest to prevent such destruction. Shokhrukh-Mirzo Jalilov has studied water resources and the increased need for clean water in urban areas within The Philippines (2018). This study takes a new approach to understanding the impact of improving water supply systems. Most analysis only considers the benefit of cleaner water and not the environmental costs. Jalilov’s study is in line with vocal groups within The Philippines who are concerned that urban water resources will further deteriorate rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.

medwid.pngFigure 1: Map of Kaliwa Dam Project. The water source and the conveyance route to Manila are shown, along with justifications for the project.


Chin, D.A, (2013), Water-Resources Engineering Third Edition, Pearson.

Jalilov, S.-M. (2017). Value of Clean Water Resources: Estimating the Water Quality Improvement in Metro Manila, Philippines. Resources7(1), 1. MDPI AG. Retrieved from

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Paul de Vries, makes this connection in Jakarta, Indonesia. This current event was reported in BBC News, on August 13, 2018, under the title, Jakarta, the fastest sinking city in the world, by Mayuri Mei Lin & Rafki Hidayat. This issue is also reported by Dr. Michelle Kooy and Dr. Kathryn Furlong, professors at the IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education and the University of Montreal respectively, in Eco-Business. Both articles attribute the sinking of Jakarta to groundwater extraction.


Figure 1: Aerial view of Jakarta

Jakarta is sinking at an alarming rate of 1-15 cm a year, which is more than twice the average rate of other coastal megacities. This is largely due to the vast extraction of groundwater, which has been a major source of clean water for residents and businesses. When too much groundwater is extracted, the soil settles, lowering the elevation. This article explores the importance of providing an adequate centralized water infrastructure for a city. It also informs the readers of the costs and benefits of using groundwater. This BBC article has a narrow focus on the dangers of groundwater extraction and does not explain why the city’s infrastructure cannot adequately meet demand for water.


Figure 2: Stagnant water on a floor that has been submerged underground because of soil consolidation

Economic and societal factors have largely driven this problem. Jakarta has tried to improve its water infrastructure for several decades, being managed by both public and private sources. Ever since the days of Dutch colonization, there has been a severe disparity of water access between the rich and the poor. Kooy and Furlong argue that neither the upper nor the lower classes receive an adequate supply through the centralized piped network, but that this inequality still exists through the ability to pump groundwater. More affluent residents can pump deeper to reach cleaner aquifers, whereas poorer communities must rely on shallower water, which is often contaminated by wastewater during flood events. Hydrologists have urged residents to stop extracting groundwater, but citizens are reluctant to change. Environmental issues further exacerbate Jakarta’s sinking. Apip, Sagala, and Pingpin reported high Biochemical Oxygen Demand levels in all rivers flowing through Jakarta in their article (2015). This prevents any local body of water from being a viable alternative source for drinking water. While Jakarta is currently looking for flood protection in the form of sea walls, it must improve its centralized pipe network and cease the extraction of groundwater. Unfortunately, these improvements will most likely not keep up with the demand for clean water.


Lin, MM. Jakarta: the fastest sinking city in the world. BBC News. Published August 13, 2018. Accessed January 28, 2019.

Kooy M, Furlong K. Why the rich in Jakarta have better access to water than the poor—it’s not the piped network. Eco-Business. Published March 28, 2018. Accessed January 28, 2019.

Heriyanto D. What you need to know about Jakarta’s Water Privatization. The Jakarta Post. April 12, 2018. Accessed January 28, 2019.

Apip, Sagala SAH, Pingping L. Overview of Jakarta WaterRelated Environmental

Challenges. United Nations University: Water and Urban Initiative Working Paper Series. 2015; 4:1-5.