Latest Entries »

ESF Grand Challenges Scholars Program scholar, Elliott Carlson, presents their talent competency on project experience in Marichaj, Guatemala.  They explain how a research perspective helps advance engineering solutions to pressing problems affecting sustainability.  Project partners include non-profit organization Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and research supervisor, Swiatoslav Kaczmar PE.  The Grand Challenge addressed in this competency is Provide Access to Clean Water. The project report is online here.

The EWB student chapter at ESF was tasked with designing a water distribution system for a rural community in the highlands of Guatemala.  Due to both the unique physical and atmospheric conditions of the area, the community experienced multiple months of no rain, commonly referred to as the dry season. During this period of the year, the community was required to walk roughly 5 kilometers in order to reach their water source.  During the wet season, the community used rainwater catchment systems, installed on each dwelling, to collect water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking (Figure 1).  Our team worked closely with community members and non-profit organizations in order to determine the best solution to the problem.  Our goal was to provide water to the community during the 3-4 months of the dry season.

Figure 1. Example of rainwater catchment system installed on a home in the Marichaj community

At the start of the project, a team of five students and one mentor traveled to meet the community members and collect much needed information for the design.  This included collecting GPS data points, conducting community surveys, and getting a general idea of problem.  During our trip, the community showed us a stream that they were hoping to use as the source of water.  This stream was fed by a spring higher up in the mountains and would be ideal starting point for the water pipeline.  The group hiked the route of the proposed pipeline: down the stream, across a valley, and back up to the community (Figure 2).  Any engineering design takes into account all possible alternatives.  Therefore, the team developed plans to investigate three alternatives: the spring, groundwater, and expansion of the current rainwater system.

Figure 2. Elliott Carlson (bottom right), EWB team, and community members at the source of the spring

Upon returning from the assessment trip, the student team broke up into three groups to explore the three alternatives.  My group was tasked with expanding the rainwater catchment system.  This method of water collection was familiar to the community members.  This method would require an increase in catchment surface area, installation of water storage, and the development of a disinfection method.  In order to provide during the dry season, roughly 2 million liters of water would need to be collected and stored during the wet season.  This number was calculated using the community size of 500 people, the average dry season length of 100 days, and the United Nations per capita water demand of 30 liters.  Additionally, a factor of safety of 30 percent was added to account for variability and community population increase.

The catchment area under consideration that would provide for the calculated demand were the roofs of the community’s school and church.  The school’s roof was measured to be 2500 square feet and the church 1200 square feet.  This would provide a total area of 3700 square feet of additional rainwater catchment surface area.  Using both the volume required and the available square feet, it was determine that 19 feet of rainfall would need to fall during the wet season in order to provide for the dry season.  Unfortunately, the average annual rainfall was found to be roughly 7.5 feet using information gathered from TRMM rainfall data.  With this being the case, the rainfall catchment area would need to be larger than what was available in the community.  The rainwater catchment and storage alternative did not seem to be the best option.  However, it was not eliminated due to the potential for it to be paired with another alternative.  The rainwater catchment system did indeed meet the design goal of providing the community with additional water.  However, the rainwater catchment design alone would not suffice.  This design could be paired with a piping system that distributed water from a nearby spring.  Alternatively, the rainwater catchment system could be paired with a system that pumps from a nearby groundwater source.  An investigation into nearby springs and groundwater sources would need to be further developed in order to determine the best alternative or combination of alternatives.

ESF Grand Challenges Scholars Program scholar, Elliott Carlson, presents their business / entrepreneurship competency on workshop experience in Rochester, New York.  They explain how a business / entrepreneurship perspective helps advance engineering solutions to pressing problems affecting sustainability.  Workshop partners include the University of Rochester Hajim School GCSP Director Emma Derisi and ESF GCSP Director Dr. Ted Endreny PE.  The Grand Challenge addressed in this competency is Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure.

The City of Rochester faces a problem that many cities throughout the Unites States is facing.  A lack of affordable housing for its lower income residents is causing a rise in homelessness in urban areas.  In an effort to combat this rise, organizations have been developed to tackle the issue of homelessness in Rochester area.  This aid comes in the form of land trusts, shelters, and other social programs fighting for an increase in the availability of affordable housing.  In addition, there exists governmental programs that work to fill the ever increasing gap.

The NAE GCSP Design Thinking Workshop at the University of Rochester provided the opportunity to gain a first-hand experience learning more about those experiencing homelessness in Rochester the area.  At the workshop, NAE scholars met with local community partners to learn more about the steps that have been taken to tackle such a challenging issue.  My group had the chance to meet with Allie Dentinger, the Director and Co-Founder of the organization Supports on the Streets.  As an outreach team, the organization works to connect with those facing homelessness and works hard to meet their needs.

Figure 1. Elliott Carlson collaborating with team members during the prototype stage of the design thinking process

Students in attendance were provided with the opportunity to apply their knowledge using the design thinking process.  This is a multistep human-centered design process that encourages a focus on the user.  The steps include: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.  Following these steps ensures the final product or service is properly designed for the end user.  For example, Supports on the Streets empathizes with those facing homelessness in order to better define the issues faced.  This is a cruicial first step when attempting to find a solution to a problem.  Using this topic, student groups worked together to come up with ideas, or ideate, as to how the previously identified problem could be solved.  Close to a hundred ideas were generated within each group due to the creative conversation and energy generated at the workshop.  Following the brainstorm, ideas were condensed and combined with each iteration until a final, overarching solution was produced.  Using the final design, the business model canvas was used to identify key partners, activities, and resources as well as costs / revenue associated with the final design.  Most importantly, the relationship with the customer was identified using information gathered throughout the design process, from start to finish.

In addition to viewing the user as the beneficiary of the design, any investors or funders must also be considered.  In order to have a sustainable initiative, be that combatting homelessness, some amount of financial support will be needed.  In order to receive the necessary support, incentives must be woven into the design process.  Doing so, ensures a strong design that includes a strong business plan.  However, basing one’s design fully on said business plan isn’t always the best for sustainability.  A balance should be established between the design and the business plan, neither one relying heavily on the other.  Through my involvement in the Design Thinking Workshop, I’ve come to understand the necessity of a viable business model when it comes to implementing a solution.  The earlier on in the design process the business model is considered, the more integrated it will be.  Additionally, the business plan will have a greater effect on the sustainability of the chosen final design.


ESF Grand Challenges Scholars Program scholar, Elliott Carlson, presents their social consciousness competency on project experience in Arcahaie, Haiti.  They explain how a socially conscious perspective helps advance engineering solutions to pressing problems affecting sustainability.  The Grand Challenge addressed in this competency is Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure.

The proper management of solid waste is an integral part of maintaining human health, safety, and the quality of the environment.  Currently, wastes in Haiti are poorly managed through the use of the unregulated Truitier Landfill, near the country’s capital.  As the population of Haiti continues to grow, the quantity of waste produced also increases.  A change in the way wastes are managed will improve quality of life and environmental conditions.

SUNY Global plans to develop the Sustainable Village and Learning Community (SVLC) in Arcahaie, Haiti.  This satellite campus would be home to a variety of SUNY colleges and serve as an educational hub for the community.  A partnership between SUNY and local non-profit organizations would create opportunities for empowered Haitians to make social and economic change through education.  Currently, the site planned for the SVLC has very little development and has been used as a dumping ground for municipal solid waste (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Current condition of Sustainable Village Learning Community site in Arcahaie, Haiti

In the final year of the Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) major, students are required to work in a group to complete a senior capstone project.  My team was tasked with developing a waste management plan for the SVLC.  Using our best engineering judgement and information both provided and researched, we worked to determine the best method of managing both construction and operational wastes.  The final design was determined by analyzing all considered alternatives based on the previously set forth performance criteria.  A large part of this process included assessing each alternative based on the three pillars of sustainability; economic, social, and environmental.  In addition, we used the knowledge gained from the ERE 468 course, Solid and Hazardous Waste Engineering.

Throughout the research and design process our team was in contact with local community organizations who had knowledge of the current conditions and operations.  Using this knowledge, we looked to create partnerships with organizations who have previously instituted initiatives regarding solid waste management.  For example, Plastic Bank and Haiti Recycling supports the Ramase Lajan program.  This initiative enables locals to collect plastic bottles from their community and return them in exchange for monetary compensation.  Not only are Haitians provided with a source of income, they are improving the quality of their community.  These collection facilities are located throughout the country and are typically created from retrofitted shipping containers (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Example of a Ramase Lajan plastic bottle collection facility in Haiti

Understanding the community dynamic in which you are working is imperative when developing appropriate engineering designs.  As engineers, we aim for our designs to be as sustainable as possible.  Through understanding the social, economic, and environmental issues faced in a community, an engineer can better design in order to solve interdisciplinary problems.  By engaging in a collaborative engineering design process, my senior capstone team was able to recommend the best method of managing solid waste at the SVLC Haiti site.  Additionally, through the development of community partnerships, the SVLC will take on a socially conscious perspective to not only advance engineering solutions but improve sustainability within Haiti.

ESF Grand Challenges Scholars Program scholar, Elliott Carlson, presents their multidisciplinary competency on project experience in Vieques, Puerto Rico.  They explain how a multidisciplinary perspective helps advance engineering solutions to pressing problems affecting sustainability.  The Grand Challenge addressed in this competency is Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure.

When Hurricane Maria made landfall only two weeks after Hurricane Irma, the Caribbean islands were not prepared.  The island of Puerto Rico is home to FEMA’s Caribbean Distribution Center, the islands’ only emergency stockpile of supplies.  The warehouse was 83% depleted with 90% of water supplies and 100% of tarps and cots deployed after Hurricane Irma.  As the category 4 hurricane made landfall, 80,000 still remained without power.  This number, along with the number of casualties, would only increase due to lack of preparedness and post disaster support.

Vieques is a small island municipality, off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico.  It was also severely impacted during the 2017 storms.  The island experienced flooding, power outages, and infrastructure damage.  In addition, the island’s population experienced scarcities in their potable water supply.  Receiving very little aid from either the federal or Puerto Rican government, the community of Vieques was on their own to recover in the weeks following the hurricane.  To do so, key community members stepped forward to help lead the recovery process.  They worked to ensure that fellow community members were safe and provided with the necessary assistance.  Moving forward, the community hopes to design a more sustainable Vieques.  In the event of any future disasters, the island would be better prepared by developing to increase their resiliency, decrease their dependence, and better utilize available resources (Davidson et. al., 2010).

Figure 1. Elliott Carlson (far left) and group meets with Ardelle Negretti to discuss plans regarding the development of Parque la Ceiba de Vieques

In order to implement a sustainable engineering plan, design, or project, one must consider the three pillars of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental.  To best meet these pillars through engineering design, an interdisciplinary systems approach must be adopted.  In order to produce the best design, there must exist a close cooperation among researchers with different yet complementary interests and fields of knowledge.  Studies regarding the development of smart city models show that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary for the successful, effective, and sustainable implementation of the plan (Andrisano et. al., 2018).  Combining both a systems and interdisciplinary perspective leads to better informed engineering design that connects to the environmental, social, and economic sectors.

While in Vieques, the team of students had the opportunity to meet with multiple community leaders who were working to improve their community.  In one meeting, students heard from Ardelle Negretti who shared proposed plans for Parque la Ceiba de Vieques (Figure 1).  The park, located on the northern coast of the island, is home to the more than 300 year old Ceiba tree.  Ardelle and her team are working to further develop the park as a tribute to the people of Vieques.  This coastal area would be used for recreation and relaxation as well as serve as a tribute to the resiliency of both the Ceiba and the people of Vieques.  As our team discussed the plans with Ardelle, many ideas were brought to light.  These included the implementation of green infrastructure and coastal resiliency projects, the potential for environmental and historical education, and the potential for local revenue by increasing eco-tourism.  All of these ideas were brought to light through a conversation with students from many different majors.  Through the use of different yet complimentary fields of knowledge, designs can be created that connect the environmental, social, and economic sectors to best fit the needs of the user.

Figure 2. Elliott Carlson (second from the right) with fellow students and instructors sharing interdisciplinary perspectives on challenges faced by the island of Vieques

The design process of an engineering project is the most critical stage.  It is the easiest point at which changes can be made and functions can be added.  A focus on the design ensures peek economic, environmental, and social performance throughout the project’s life.  Through the involvement of a multidisciplinary team, a well-rounded design can be created to best serve the user.  Additionally, multidisciplinary teams is a cost effective way to increase productivity and reduce negative environmental impacts (Stansinoupolos et. al., 2013).  An example of this includes a small run-of-river hydropower project in Thailand.  The design team faced problems such as lack of accessibility to possible sites, large quantity of data required, and lack of participation from the local community.  Through the use of a multidisciplinary approach, the design team considered engineering, economic, environmental criteria as well as the design’s social impact (Rojanamon et. al., 2009). The team used GIS to find site locations, conducted economic evaluations, defined environmental parameters, and conducted a social impact study all during the design stage of the project.  A design method such as this is applicable in many cases and can be verified by the site selection results.

As we considered our team’s role in the development of a more sustainable Vieques, we addressed the knowledge and information gained from our time on the island.  How can we, as students of various programs at ESF (Figure 2), use what we have learned to aid in the design of a more resilient and sustainable Vieques?  Through the use of an interdisciplinary team, we can connect the environmental, economic, and social sectors of design to best meet the user’s need.  Specific to my major, being provided with a systems perspective allows me to better develop the engineering design.  By bringing together members from different yet complimentary disciplines, designs can be better engineered to meet project goals.  As engineers, it is our duty to produce the best option to best serve its user economically, socially, and environmentally.


Andrisano, O., et. al. (2018). The need of multidisciplinary approaches and engineering tools for the development and implementation of the smart city paradigm. Proceedings of the IEEE. 106(4), 738-760. doi: 10.1109/JPROC.2018.2812836

Davidson, C. I., et. al. (2010). Preparing future engineers for challenges of the 21st century: Sustainable engineering. Journal of Cleaner Production. 18(7), 698-701. doi: 10.1016/J.JCLEPRO.2009.12.021

Stansinoupolos, P., et. al. (2013). Whole System Design: an integrated approach to sustainable engineering. doi: 10.4324/9781849773775

Rojanamon, P., et. al. (2009). Application of geographical information system to site selection of small run-of-river hydropower project by considering engineering / economic / environmental criteria and social impact. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 18(9), 2336-2348. doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2009.07.003

ESF Grand Challenges Scholars Program scholar, Elliott Carlson, presents their multicultural competency on project experience in Boaco, Nicaragua.  They explain how a multicultural perspective helps advance engineering solutions to pressing problems affecting sustainability.  The Grand Challenge addressed in this competency is Provide Access to Clean Water.

In our everyday lives, we do not often think of what our next source of water will be.  We turn on the faucet expecting the water to flow out both steadily and most importantly, clean.  We’ve grown to trust our homes, our towns, or our cities to provide its residents with a reliable source of clean water.  Now, imagine this was not the case.  Many people throughout the world are required to walk miles to their closest water source.  In addition to the distance traveled, the source may be unreliable or even unclean, leading to more time or energy spent obtaining water.

This is somewhat the case at a school on the outskirts of Boaco, Nicaragua.  Located about 20 minutes off the main highway, the schools is not connected to any grid of utilities such as water, sanitation, or electricity.  They rely on hand pumps located throughout the community to extract from the groundwater source.  These pumps require the user to rotate a large wheel in order to raise the water to the surface.  This is a time consuming and energy intensive method to obtain water, especially for the children who attended the school.


Figure 1. Elliott Carlson (left) with Gustavo Reyes PE (right) installing water distribution system

In addition to general academics, the instructors wanted to teach the students about agriculture.  Specially, a method of farming adopted in the region called sustainable mini-farming or biointensive farming.  These methods strive to use the natural resources as efficiently as possible and grow the food naturally.  Methods such as deep soil preparation, composting, companion planting, and carbon farming are adopted.  The instructors at the school also wanted to develop gardens on site where the students would have the opportunity to have hands on learning experience.  In order to successfully develop agricultural plots at the school, the method of water delivery would need to be upgraded.

Figure 2. Construction of the school’s water distribution system to feed agricultural gardens

Conveniently located on site was a well with a hand pump installed.  This pump was upgraded to solar pump to provide a more energy efficient method of transporting the water to the surface.  Additionally, a tank was added to the site in order to provide a water reserve for the school (Figure 1).  The tank would be fed by the solar pump then distributed to the three garden beds through a drip irrigation system (Figure 2).  This system would ensure the tank is consistently filled and the beds are provided enough water to promote growth.  Not only does this water distribution system provide a reliable source of water to the school it also decreases the amount of energy required obtain the water.

By working closely with the local community beneficiaries, our team was able to design and implement a system that would provide the school with reliable clean water.  By adapting the previously used groundwater pumping method, the school is now outfitted with a solar pump, piping, tank, and drip irrigated agricultural beds.  These improvements create an environment for students to have hands on learning opportunities to develop their agricultural skills.  By taking a familiar method of water acquisition and improving it, the community felt comfortable with the new system.  Through the understanding of a different culture, the proposed engineering solution was accepted, implemented, and adopted by the community.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Kailey Schneid makes this connection in Harbin, China. This current event was reported in Microfluidics for Cell and Other Organisms, on January 14th, 2019, under the title, Bacterial Concentration Detection using a PCB-based Contactless Conductivity Sensor, by Xiao-Yan Zhang, Zhe-Yu Li, Yu Zhang, Xiao-Qian Zang, Kosei Ueno, Hiroaki Misawa, and Kai Sun. The PCB acronym stands for printed circuit board. It can be ensured this is not, “fake news,” when looking to the article, “Bacterial Detection & Identification Using Electrochemical Sensors,” published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. It is validated here that bacteria detection can be done with a variety of electrochemical sensors (Halford, 2013).

This article demonstrates PCB’s ability to be utilized in bacterial concentration detection. Bacteria concentrations are extremely notable when looking at WRE, particularly with regard to wastewater engineering. Bacteria populations are indicators of water quality. This approach allows for improved speed, minimized human error, and reduced cost. Efficiency is important when seeking methods of distributing safe water to a megacity like Harbin, China. This technology can maintain bacterial safety of the water supply to millions. This article is looking at implementation in the medical field, specifically E. coli concentrations. This is important news for the Water Resources Engineering world because it potentially provides an improved method for counting bacteria. However, we know that PCB’s are carcinogenic and take ample time to be removed from the environment. Xiao-Yan’s article fails to address the impacts that using PCB’s may impose upon disposal.

Environmental, societal, and economic issues begin to intertwine when looking deep enough. Combating the harm being done to our planet every day is needed now more than ever. Action needs to be implemented at much faster rates. Clean, fresh water is our most precious resource; it has been said that drinkable water is becoming the new oil in terms of scarcity. This technology can enable processing of bacteria colonies in water to be handled: more rapidly, at a lower price, and with less error. Environmentally, if the issue of PCB disposal was addressed, this method of bacteria concentration detection would be advantageous in WRE. It would not be easy to educate the importance of monitoring bacteria concentrations to the masses. Societally it is trendy to care about the environment. Unfortunately, regarding mass majority, the appeal is about appearance and stops at action. A cultural shift to conscious consuming would deviate from the current norm, moving towards causing minimal harm to the planet. Consciousness to what one is buying would have tremendous influence over which companies become powerful. Companies with power are capable of making change. Convenience and price are often what companies and consumers are concerned with. This method of counting bacteria populations is cheaper than standard apparatuses. Lower cost, higher speed, and efficiency are appealing and would allow for more applications of treatment- making it economically viable. Society then benefits with an increase in water supply; not that an average American would expect anything but a constant supply of clean water. PCB-based contactless bacteria detection would be beneficial in providing a cheaper, faster, more accurate source for clean water. Eight environmental pollutants can be detected with the swift, eco-friendly analytical method of capillary electrophoresis with capacitively coupled contactless conductivity detection (C4D). This was tested on seawater containing biogenic amines. (Gubaartallah, 2018). These biogenic amines could lead to an increase in nitrogen contents, promoting eutrophication and dead zones. Being able to identify and treat these sources quickly, scrupulously, and cost effectively is impressive. There is ample need for clean drinking water, and quantifying bacteria populations plays a large role. Gubaartallah’s article demonstrates similar processes’ done to detect biogenic amines in seawater. Figure 1A provides a visual of the PCB-based C4D device. How to handle disposal of the PCB’s would cement the process in Xiao-Yan’s article as sufficient for use in WRE.



Gubartallah, E. A., Makahleh, A., Quirino, J. P., & Saad, B. (2018). Determination of Biogenic Amines in Seawater Using Capillary Electrophoresis with Capacitively Coupled Contactless Conductivity Detection. Molecules, 23(5), 1112.

Halford, C., Gau, V., Churchill, B. M., & Haake, D. A. (2013). Bacterial Detection & Identification Using Electrochemical Sensors. Journal of Visualized Experiments : JoVE, (74).

Zhang, X.-Y., Li, Z.-Y., Zhang, Y., Zang, X.-Q., Ueno, K., Misawa, H., & Sun, K. (2019). Bacterial Concentration Detection using a PCB-based Contactless Conductivity Sensor. Micromachines, 10(1), 55.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Maureen McCarthy, makes this connection in Bangkok, Thailand. This current event was reported on VOAnews, on January 12th, 2019, under the title, “Bangkok fights floods with thirsty landscaping,” by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Rina Chandran. This news article describes how flooding is very common in the city of Bangkok, especially during monsoon season. Every monsoon season, a large portion of the city is infiltrated with excessive amounts of water, and parts of the city are entirely submerged every year. The city was once composed of so many canals that the name “Venice of the East” was coined to describe its nature. Since then, so many of the city’s canals and waterways have been filled during construction, and the city has also experienced an exponential increases in urban sprawl. Because of this, climate experts conclude that the city is sinking by over 1 centimeter each year. So many canals are being filled up and there is such a low ratio of green space within the city that there is no place for all the water to go. This results in the increased runoff rates and flooding that the city has been experiencing.

The recent increase in flooding in Thailand is quantified in the case study titled “Hydrologic Sensitivity of Flood Runoff and Inundation: 2011 Thailand Floods in the Chao Phraya River Basin” by T. Sayama, Y. Tatebe, Y. Iwami, and S. Tanaka. This case study talks about the flooding that occurred in Thailand during the 2011 monsoon season which is considered the worst flooding in decades, putting over one fifth of the city underwater. The goal of the study was to quantify hydrologic sensitivity in Thailand, and it simulated inundation for the entire Chao Phraya River Basin. This study has shown that the flooding inundation volume in 2011 was 1.6 times greater than past flooding events. The news article talks about how Bangkok is built on the floodplains of the Chao Phraya River, and is an urban area that is expected to be greatly influenced by warming temperatures. As simulated in the study Hydrologic Sensitivity study, more and more of Bangkok is expected to become inundated with water in the coming years. In fact, it is projected that by the year 2030, about 40% of the city could be inundated (Sayama etal, 2014).

Reducing runoff is starting to become more and more of a concern in Bangkok, and initiative is being taken to reduce disaster effects. A “metro forest” is being built in the city, which would convert two acres of abandoned land into forested land in order to reduce urban sprawl. One of the city’s existing parks is designed at a three degree angle, collecting excess runoff in a retention pond at the park’s center. While water is flowing through the park to the retention pond, native vegetation and porous pavement filter the water. At the highest end of this existing park, there is a museum covered with a green roof, used to filter rainwater which is then stored in underground tanks. This park can hold up about 1 million gallons of water for the use of the city during the dry season. Not only does this park serve the purpose of dissipating the dangerous effects of flooding during monsoon season, but it also serves a purpose to benefit the city during the dry season, no water is wasted in this park. Green infrastructure is an important aspect of water resources engineering, and the purpose of green parks like this is to soak up water during flooding events, helping the city to adapt the changing climate by minimizing storm water runoff. The University of Michigan has been conducting research on Green Roofs, confirming that their main benefit is to mitigate storm water runoff within urban areas (Getter, Rowe, 2006).  Even though the addition of green infrastructure is very beneficial, several other initiatives have been taken to reduce flooding wreckage within the city, but not all of them take on such a direct approach. Part of the process of fixing Bangkok’s problem is to educate its people. A societal shift is necessary if the city of Bangkok is going to continue to thrive within the changing environment. If people can learn to take initiative themselves to learn about the effects green roofs and permeable driveways and yards have on the urban landscape, the city of Bangkok will make great strides in mitigating the effects of climate change.


Figure 1: Residents of Bangkok during the 2011 flood season, the worst flooding in Bangkok on record.


K.L. Getter, D.B Rowe. Benefits of Green Roofs. Benefits of Green Roofs. Published 2006. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Reuters, Reuters. Bangkok Fights Floods with Thirsty Landscaping. VOA. Published January 9, 2019. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Sinking Bangkok fights to stay afloat with a new anti-flood park. South China Morning Post. Published October 5, 2018. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Tanaka. Hydrologic sensitivity of flood runoff and inundation: 2011 Thailand floods in the Chao Phraya River basin. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. Published July 24, 2015. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Eoin Rapp makes this connection in Shenzhen, China. This current event was reported in Elevate, on, December 12th, 2018, under the title, “Shenzhen as China’s Pioneer “Sponge City”: Dialogue with The Nature Conservancy,” by Gloria Luo. This is unlikely to be “fake news” as China’s continued water supply and runoff problems are well documented for several years now, and such a water shortage serves as a justification for more natural systems of retaining water in cities.

The Chinese government’s Ministry of Housing and Ministry of Rural-Urban Development in partnership with local municipalities launched the Sponge Cities program almost 5 years ago. This undertaking falls under the realm of stormwater management, and it’s a part of an ambitious goal by the Chinese State Council to effectively use 70% of storm rainwater in cities. This effort to manage stormwater fulfills an essential role of water resources engineering by preventing or reducing downstream flooding (Chin, 2013). The development of these green infrastructures is important to the WRE community as it fundamentally addresses a major WRE goal of managing and controlling water runoff, and it serves and an example of using the available resources of rainwater and new technologies such as absorbent pavement in order to reach this goal of water management. While the article does provide general descriptions of green infrastructure types the specifics on the type of rainwater quality and quantity in Shenzhen as well as more concrete examples of green infrastructure were not addressed, both of which are important design factors in creating a stormwater management system.

Societal, environmental and economic issues dictate key aspects of stormwater management system sand include public understanding and acceptance, water quality in the rainwater and the surrounding watershed, and government and private sponsorship and support. The development of this stormwater management and recovery system is projected to bring about a huge social change as it is projected that there will be a significant reduction in the water shortage and water importation into the Shenzhen city area, which will affect the availability and cost of water for residents, changing their daily lives and understanding of water. Environmental impacts to be considered from the development of the stormwater management collection system is the vast amount of water that will not be leaving the city via storm sewers or flooding and any of the associated impacts that might have. This undertaking is a huge financial endeavor with total investment for the whole Sponge City program estimated to cost anywhere from 300 billion to 1 trillion is U.S. dollars for both private and public entities over the course of 10 years. Trouble with managing stormwater and the resulting flooding with green infrastructure is not a new problem, as has been illustrated in a case study involving Cleveland and Milwaukee, (Keeley et al, 2013). Keeley et al, describes the environmental impact that green infrastructure can have on larger industrial cities and its overall importance especially regarding reducing rainfall runoff over impermeable surfaces and revitalizing cities green spaces. With the successful application of green infrastructure in cities in the U.S., the Chinese effort that is significantly more centrally led and funded stands a good chance of achieving its goals of retaining most of the rainwater that enters the city. Shenzhen China’s efforts to implement WRE can be simplified to a cause and effect relationship, where the cause is a water shortage having risen from an increased population in areas with limited water resources and an overwhelming waste of that rainwater resource into problematic flooding, and the effect was the implementation of stormwater management systems that have successfully captured and utilized that rainwater for other beneficial purposes.


Figure 1 A map of the newest district in the city with different green infrastructure projects in varying sectors shown.


  1. Chin, D. A, (2013), Water Resources Engineering Third Edition, Pearson.
  2. Harris M. China’s sponge cities: soaking up water to reduce flood risks. The Guardian. Published October 1, 2015. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  3. Shenzhen as China’s Pioneer “Sponge City”: Dialogue with The Nature Conservancy. ELEVATE. Published December 12, 2018. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  4. International Water Association. Published January 1, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2019.
  5. Keeley M, Koburger A, Dolowitz DP, Medearis D, Nickel D, Shuster W. Perspectives on the Use of Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Environmental Management. 2013;51(6):1093-1108. doi:10.1007/s00267-013-0032-x.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Tianna Tyler makes this connection in Shantou, China. This current event was reported in Science and Technology Daily on Thursday, September 17th, 2017, under the title, “The story of a Small Chinese Town That Faced up To and Won the war on pollution That Was Destroying Their Livelihood.” This is unlikely to be “fake news” as Shantou China’s potable water shortage has previously been covered by Guangdong Chaonan Water Resources Development and Protection Demonstration Project (RRP PRC 46079). In which methods of remediating water scarcity are discussed.

Shantou, China is one of the largest cities in South East China, with a population size of approximately 4.8 million people. Therefore, it is no surprise that when a disturbance such as a flood or rain event occurs inadequate water and waste water will not be able to handle high volumes of inflows that occur. Shantou, China has experienced many environmental issues and devastations such as flooding, water and waste water pollution, and sewage overflows. In addition, some districts in Shantou are not equipped to meet present and future water supply demands. However, Shantou is making great strides to improve their water infrastructure systems and reduce pollution.

For example, the Chaonan District in Shantou, is challenged by increasing domestic and industrial water consumption because, the three major water supply systems have yet to be connected for efficient water resource allocation. Also, the water pipe coverage is insufficient, and some water pipes laid out by communities in late 1980s or early 1990s are aging. However, through the Nanshan flood diversion project some water has been made available. The project prioritizes flood diversion and drainage, with a secondary focus on providing water for irrigation, waterways, and drinking water. It starts from the flood release tunnel in the west of the Jinxi reservoir. Then passes the Lipo reservoir in the east and collects the water into the Qiufeng reservoir. It also collects water from sub-water systems of the Hongkoushe reservoir, the Longxi reservoir, and the Xiaolongxi River. Finally, it enters the South China Sea in the end, and has a total catchment area of 216.6 km^2 . (Guangdong Chaonan Water Resources Development and Protection Demonstration Project (RRP PRC 46079) NA).

In the article by Science and Technology Daily, another Shantou district is discussed. The district of Chaoyang is also making a conscience effort to improve water infrastructure within their township. There has been comprehensive treatment actions and other design implementations to mitigate the impact of their water resources. For example, rain-sewage diversion, landscaping, flood control and other measures. In addition, there has been ongoing testing and monitoring at water treatment to facility ensure that water is safe for public use (Science and Technology Daily 2017).

Finally, Shantou China along with other municipalities in China, have been implementing a new design called “sponge-cities”. This implementation is designed to tackle urban water issues such as purification of urban runoff, attenuation of peak runoff and water conservation. The concept of this design to use blue and green spaces in urban storm water management and control (Chan et al. 2018). Shantou’s local government is looking to enforce strict control emission of pollutants and implement the strict water resources management systems.

In WRE, poor water infrastructure is an issue that impacts communities economically, environmentally, and socially. Water infrastructure impacts a community economically because, poor infrastructure means less access to water, for daily needs and purposes. This especially affects communities that depend on agriculture. This becomes an environmental issue because poor infrastructure leads to pollution, loss of wildlife, and habitat destruction. Finally, this is a social issue because, it not only impacts overall human health, but it disproportionally affects those in marginalized communities. As a result, they end up paying more for cleaner water (Deck & Roy 2019) socially, economically, and environmentally the local government are taking the proper strides to not only remediate their community but make their city more resilient.


Figure 1: Rescuers help people affected by flood in Chaoyang District, Shantou City, South China’s Guangdong Province


Figure 2: Image of sponge-city in a Chinese Providence


Guangdong Chaonan Water Resources Development and Protection Demonstration Project (RRP PRC 46079): Summary Water Balance Assessment

Science and Technology Daily: The story of a Small Chinese Town That Faced Up To and Won the War on Pollution That Was Destroying Their Livelihood (2018)

English.GOV.CN The State Council, The People’s Republic of China: State Council approves Shantou’s city plan (2017)

Chan F., Griffiths J., Higgitt D., Xu S., Zhu f., Tang Y., Xu Y., & Throne C.: “Sponge City” in China—A breakthrough of planning and flood risk management in the urban context (2018)

Jerica D., & Roy S.,: Poorer People Pay More for Clean Water Report finds (2019)


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Cody LaFever makes this connection in Wuhan, China. This current event was reported in The Guardian, on Wednesday, January 23, 2019 under the title, “Inside China’s Leading ‘sponge city’: Wuhan’s war with water”, by Li Jing. This is unlikely to be “fake news” as this topic has been previously been covered by an associated environmental engineering firm, Arcadis, and a sprawling city such as Wuhan requires new stormwater infrastructure due to the accelerated urbanization of the city.  The article describes the project as a massive network of small stormwater catch basins, rain gardens, grassy swales, and increasing amount of vegetation.  Achieving proper stormwater mitigation is difficult for dense urban and growing urban areas, with this ‘sponge’ style technique the city can secure the safety of its people, and its future.

This current event relates to water resource engineering because it is one of the largest issues facing many cities across the globe, the consequences we face as we industrialize and urbanize the landscape.  This is important news for the water resources engineering realm because the project focuses on new and underutilized methods of mitigating the negative effects of stormwater in urban settings.  The application of technology was very detailed, however some important information that was missing from the article was in regard to the specifics of the technology used.

Societal, environmental and economic issues dictate key aspects of the sponge city stormwater infrastructure project, government budgeted spending, sustainability, and citizen well-being.  This sponge city stormwater infrastructure project will have positive effects on the cities natural environment, and it is estimated that initiatives of the plan will result in a 70% reduction of pollution carried by runoff areas.  Economically speaking, the project has the potential to prevent significant damage and property loss due to flooding and waterlogging.  The process of implementing many small stormwater mitigation ‘sponges’ is estimated to generate 20,000 new jobs, contributing to a considerable societal impact.  The need and effectiveness for all cities to follow lead and implement ‘sponge’ type micro-systems is an important factor when considering the evident climate change in our future (Sharma, 2014).  The effects of implementing a ‘sponge’ style stormwater system are reducing erosion, sediment transport, and runoff control, while increasing water capture, general city safety, and local aesthetics.  This issue is at the heart of water resource engineering and when addressed properly, acts as a proper advocate for future generations.


Figure 1: An artistic rendering of how an urban setting can be transformed to include methods of water resource engineering, specifically in stormwater mitigation.


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

Sharma A, Suri S, (2014). Emerging Need for Incorporating Sustainable Principles in Buildings and Habitat
Design. Sustainable Constructivism. Doi:978-93-83083-76-3