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Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Katherine Eckam makes this connection in Kinshasa, Congo. This current event was reported in Thomson Reuters international multimedia news agency on March 8, 2017, under the title, “Congo risks 50 percent drop in power output due to low rainfall”, by Aaron Ross. This is likely real news, based on Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences providing a lesson on environments of Africa, which included an article on low rainfall in Congo, by Dr. Tanya Furman at here.

The news about the lack of rainfall causing low amounts of power output relates to water resources engineering in the specific areas of hydropower. The key message in this article is the impacts of climate change range farther than just a decrease in rainfall. Precipitation has become a power and electricity source that Congo has become dependent on due to advances in hydropower technology. A lack of rainfall causes a decrease in water levels, which decreases water head and thus power. This lack of power would affect many aspects of Congo’s way of life and economy. In my critique of this news story, I think the article has missed important information on why exactly power would decrease if rainfall continues to decrease. They explain that Congo is dependent on hydropower for electricity but fail to explain what variables hydropower is dependent on. They also mention at the end of the article that there are plans to build a new dam on the Congo River but don’t explain how this dam will be able to provide sufficient power in lieu of the lack of precipitation while the existing dam is failing.

Figure 1. Grand Inga dam in Democratic Republic of the Congo. A new 4,800 MW dam on the Congo River as part of an envisioned 44,000 MW Grand Inga project could compensate for power outages.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are the three key factors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s’ Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper addressing climate change. The paper sees reducing emissions from deforestation and use of hydropower for electricity as crucial key initiatives to contribute to sustainable development in the country, which includes Kinshasa, Congo. The shortage of rainfall in Kinshasa, Congo relates to environmental issues, because the scarce rainfall has caused the Congo River to reach its lowest level in more than a century. The country’s environment minister sees climate change as the cause of this scarcity. The mining chamber has reached out for the country’s energy sector to address the problem and find a solution for this environmental dilemma. According to the article, the government responded with plans to build a new 4,800 MW dam on the Congo River as part of a 44,000 MW Grand Inga project. Charles Kyona, president of the chamber of mines in Congo, reported the societal effects of this rain shortage in the article when he stated that the miners do not have the means to work effectively without the electricity produced by hydropower. This could mean the citizens of Kinshasa could face not only a deficiency of water and electricity, but losses of jobs as well. Hydropower relates to economic issues because the country is dependent on hydropower for nearly all its electricity (Figure 1). A lack of rainfall, and thus hydropower, could mean a loss of 350-400 MW of power of the 850 MW currently produced. Medard Katakana, an official of the National Electricity Company, told Isango (2017) of VOA news, “We fear that if we don’t have enough water, we would have to stop the turbines because they cannot function when the water is below a certain level.” This would affect not only the copper industry, which produces the most copper in all of Africa, but also all other businesses currently keeping Kinshasa’s economy afloat. The cause-effect between rainfall shortage and impact to the economy of Kinshasa occurs when there is no longer enough water to turn the turbines that generate more than half of the area’s power output, taking away the ability of copper industry miners to work effectively and leaving businesses without electricity.


Isango, Eddie. “DRC Faces Power Shortage Caused By Drought”. VOA. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Eleanor Clark, makes this connection in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This current event was reported in Time magazine, on Oct 13, 2015, under the title, “A Megacity Without Water: São Paulo’s Drought”, by Jon Gerberg. This is likely real news based on Nation Public Radio in November 2015 providing an independent report on this current event, at here.

This event is relevant to water resources engineering as it deals with water demand, pipe networks, and storm-water control methods. The focus of this report is on the need for infrastructure changes and repairs in Sao Paulo to combat the effects of increased extreme climate events. As a result of the drought and a poorly managed water distribution and pipe system, citizens of Sao Paulo suffer daily 12-hour water cut-offs. Sao Paulo is a city known for its abundance in freshwater resources but not all of that water is able to be used for drinking. For example, on the south of the city lies another reservoir, Billings Reservoir, that contain 20% more water than the Cantareira but is too polluted to be portable. Also, the drought in Brazil not only effected the water supply for human use but also for hydroelectric power plants that are used to supply 70% of the electricity for the country (de C. D. Melo D 2016). The article was missing information on the exact measures that were or are being taken to improve the infrastructural management of these reservoirs.

Figure 1: Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira reservoir

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are the three key factors that are used to define sustainability in Sao Paulo, Brazil Water Resource Management. In this case, water resource engineering is being used to address the water deficiency problem in the community through an analysis of the available freshwater and possible sources of pollution in Brazil. Design efforts have been made to create an interstate basin system that allows the basins in the area to feed each other and create an interactive water system for Sao Paulo and the 29 million people serviced by the Cantareira reservoir (de C. D. Melo D 2016). This results in increased water security for human drinking and energy use. As an area known as the Saudi Arabia of water, it is important to protect the integrity of water reservoirs in order to protect the cultural practices of the people. “Water is life.”


de C. D. Melo D, Scanlon B, Zizhan Z, Wendland E, Lei Y. Reservoir storage and hydrologic responses to droughts in the Paraná River basin, south-eastern Brazil. Hydrology & Earth System Sciences [serial online]. November 2016;20(11):4673-4688. Available from: Environment Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 6, 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Grace Anderson makes this connection in South Korea. This current event was reported in The Korea Herald on July 6, 2016, under the title “N.K. Unleashes Flash Flood from Dam Without Warning Seoul” by Shin Hyon-hee. This event was predicted by Bloomberg in the U.S. on July 4th, 2016, in an article titled “South Korea Fears Flooding From North Discharging Dam Water” by Shinhye Kang, since heavy rainfall occurred just days before North Korea released the dam, causing problems for South Korea and Seoul. The Daily Mail in the U.K. reported the event, sharing videos from Korean students of a library catastrophically flooding at Yonsei University in Seoul.

This event is related to water resources engineering because it affected South Korea’s capacity for flooding and stormwater management. The event happened after a significant rainfall event, which caused the Hwanggang dam on the Imjin River to fill up which motivated North Korea to release some of the water from it. This event highlights the “triple bottom line” aspect of engineering also, since politics clearly play a large role in the international sharing of water resources between North and South Korea. The two nations have an agreement from 2009 in which the North pledged to warn the South of any dam discharge, which they broke when they flooded South Korea unexpectedly in this event. South Korea immediately warned people living near the affected areas to evacuate, cautioning citizens of potential mudslides and dangerous flooding. Seoul’s roads, rivers, and canals were flooded since they were not built for such a sudden massive flood. This event was likely larger than any design flood, such as a 50-year, since it was essentially man-made and it also occurred shortly after a period of heavy rain so the capital was already managing a lot of stormwater. This is an important event because it exemplifies the important role that water resources play in politics. The South Korean military did not identify the sudden opening of the dam as a deliberate flooding attack, but the event surely heightened tensions between the two governments. The Korea Herald article states that the Unification Ministry in Seoul “urg[ed] Pyongyang [North Korea] to follow through on the agreement” that they made in 2009. A ministry spokesperson is quoted saying, “North Korea… should show that it’s willing to cooperate on little things like the water discharge.” Clearly water resources play an important role in more than just engineering. The Korea Herald did not include enough engineering information in their report of this event. Author Shin stated that the waterways in the Imjin River region widened from 80 to 280 meters, but no other relevant data was cited. To fully understand the impact of this event on Seoul and other impacted regions of South Korea, a flow or volume estimate or measured value should have been given.

Figure 1: Flooding in Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. This photo is a still from a YouTube video posted by a student after the catastrophic event.

North and South Korea have had a politically tumultuous relationship for a long time, and issues such as the North flooding the river into the South by releasing water from the Hwanggang dam near their Southern border are a symptom of that. This event relates to economic issues in that the municipalities of Seoul and other affected cities in South Korea had to repair and replace damage property and flooded roads, canals, and water treatment facilities. It relates to environmental issues because the canals and waterways were widened so greatly, which very likely had an impact on fish and other aquatic life habitats. This event relates to social issues because it destroyed farms, homes, businesses, and schools throughout the Imjin region of South Korea, including in the megacity capital Seoul. The article mentions that last May, North Korea did the same thing with the Hwanggang dam and it hurt fishing families in the South who lost their fishing gear and thus their livelihood.  I have found that the economic impacts on a mega city under flood conditions was also reported by Jennifer Rhodes in 1996, who wrote that “hydraulic events… account for more losses than any other natural disaster” and that the damage caused by flooding on highways specifically was not only problematic for the high repair costs, but also in the “lost productivity and commerce for local business and industry” (Rhodes, 1996). This cause-effect between flooding and economic impacts to cities occurs when floods overtop their floodplains or their rivers/canals, and the floodwater reaches structures that are unprepared for the depth and/or momentum of the flowing or still floodwater. This damage causes economic stress on the cities that must repair the affected structures, such as highways mentioned by Rhodes.


  1. The Korea Herald. “N.K. Unleashes Flash Flood from Dam Without Warning Seoul”, 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  2. Kang, Shinhye. “South Korea Fears Flooding From North Discharging Dam Water.” Bloomberg. N.p. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  3. Mallinson, Harriet. “Terrifying Moment Water Cascades Through University Library Ceiling”. Daily Mail. N.p. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  4. Rhodes, Jennifer. “Economics of Floods, Scour, and Bride Failures”. Hydraulic Engineering 1 (1993): n. pag. Web. 1 Apr. 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental and societal issues. Our student Christopher Wren makes this connection in Paris, France. This current event was reported in The Local, on February 26,2014 under the title, “Tap water ‘polluted’ for 1.5 million in France“, by Joshua Melvin. A study supporting this information was published in Wiley Online Library and can be found at here.

Although clean drinking water is a staple for healthy living, it is becoming increasingly harder to supply even in well developed countries such as France. A large portion of the water supplied in France comes from aquifers beneath the ground surface. The over use of pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural regions around Paris have allowed these substances to leach into the groundwater supply. Also worth noting is the presence of natural, yet harmful substance, Selenium. Selenium contamination occurs when the ground water supply is drawn too low from over use. This problem stems from two issues related to WRE, water supply, and water treatment. Issues like these are far too common in the Water Resource Engineering field. As more cases are uncovered, the need for WRE is clear. This article did not however address any plans of action to address this issue.

Figure1. Spraying pesticides as seen here lead to groundwater contamination.

The rural agricultural region surrounding Paris is experiencing the worst water quality. The heavily populated city of Paris relies on these agricultural lands to provide food for the city. The lack of clean drinking water in these areas can lead to economic, environmental and societal issues for Paris. The contamination within the groundwater supply could spread to surface water and affect the local ecosystem. From and economic standpoint, France will need to spend more money for sufficient water treatment for the areas in need. However, the most immediate impact is the danger associated with drinking contaminated tap water. 1.48 million people who are drinking the contaminated water are at risk of health issues. More information on these risks can be found in the EPA’s report, “Nitrate and Pesticides in Ground Water” which can be accessed at this website.


“Tap Water ‘Polluted’ For 1.5 Million In France”. N.p., 2017. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Tournebize, J., Gramaglia, C., Birmant, F., Bouarfa, S., Chaumont, C. and Vincent, B. (2012), CO-DESIGN OF CONSTRUCTED WETLANDS TO MITIGATE PESTICIDE POLLUTION IN A DRAINED CATCH-BASIN: A SOLUTION TO IMPROVE GROUNDWATER QUALITY. Irrig. and Drain., 61: 75–86. doi:10.1002/ird.1655

“EPA’s Report On The Environment | US Environmental Protection Agency”. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Daniel Wierzba makes this connection in Osaka, Japan. This current event was reported in the Japan Times on January 24, 2014 under the title “Quake will cut water to 94% of Osaka”. The information in this article is supported by information on the Osaka municipal water supply’s website under the earthquake preparedness section ().

This current event relates to the water distribution subdiscipline of WRE. An earthquake can be devastating to a city’s water distribution network. As the earth heaves under an earthquake it can fracture pipes buried in the ground (“Quake will cut water,” 2014). These cracks will disrupt flow to as many as 8.3 million people and can allow infiltration of contaminated water into a distribution system. This news is important because it demonstrates flaws in the water distribution system and challenges engineers to design a system for uninterrupted water access during an earthquake event. The article explains what events are predicted to happen but does not include any measures that were taken to minimize the damage that can be caused by an earthquake.

A water shortage can affect the economic, environmental, and societal aspects of a city. WRE relates to these three aspects in Osaka as economies are reliant on people who are in turn reliant on clean drinking water. The health of the surrounding environment can be affected by the discharge of untreated waste water which can happen in the event of a quake. Finally, people are affected by the lack of access to drinking water. The destruction can cause upwards of $309 billion in cases of the 2011 quake and tsunami in Japan as reported by the BBC ( March 23, 2011). As seen in figure 1 the destruction of an earthquake can be immense. Due to the nature of the event it affects not only surface infrastructure but also buried utilities such as water distribution. The damage to the water distribution system alone is estimated at $253 million (“Quake will cut water,” 2014). In order to be better prepared for these disasters an Osaka based company has developed flexible earthquake resistant pipe to minimize water interruptions. The pipe is shown in figure 2. Interrupted water access is a societal issue in Osaka, but they are prepared for it. Supplies of drinking water are stored in case of an interruption in service (Foster, 2011). The importance of uninterrupted water supply during a disaster was explored in a 2005 paper by Adam Rose and Shu-Yi Liao in The Journal of Regional Science. They found that areas that suffer less utility damage lose less productivity and get back to normal faster than areas that are without utilities for extended periods of time. WRE is working to provide continuous water service in times of natural disasters.



BBC. (2011). Japan says quake rebuilding to cost as much as 25tn yen. Retrieved from (

Foster, P. (2011). Japan earthquake: country better prepared than anyone for quakes and tsunamis. The Telegraph. Retrieved from (

Japan Times. (2014). Quake will cut water to 94% of Osaka. Retrieved from (

 GESAP. (2008) Water Supply System in Osaka, Japan: Earthquake Preparedness. Retrieved from (

Rose, A. & Liao, S.Y. (2005), Modeling Regional Economic Resilience to Disasters: A Computable General Equilibrium Analysis of Water Service Disruptions. Journal of Regional Science, 45: 75–112. doi:10.1111/j.0022-4146.2005.00365.x (

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Rachel Rubach make this connection in Nagoya, Japan. This current event was reported in The Japan Times, on September 9th, 2015, under the title, Typhoon Etau Pummels Japan with Gales, Heavy rain; Evacuations Ordered, by Kyodo. This is likely a real news story since Typhoon Etau was recorded by The Weather Channel, who also provides an article on the subject.

Typhoon Etau reached its peak strength and hit Japan September 9th, 2015. The max rainfall of 26.30 inches was located in Tochigi, while Nagoya received 5.79 inches. While this wasn’t the maximum amount that fell on Japan, this much rainfall can still cause flooding and destruction. This news relates to water resources engineering because water-quality models are used in events of large stormwater surges, and pollutant loads contained in stormwater can be estimated. This is important news for water resources engineering because large urban areas, like Nagoya, are especially under concern with respect to their impact on water quality. Large urban areas, being highly populated, produce a higher concentration of pollutants per area. Due to this and because of the urban landscape, natural buffering like trees and greenery are lacking which can greatly affect the presence of stormwater and floods. This report could have given more information about how this stormwater can transfer contaminants and harmful pollutants, and if the people should be looking out for anything that could be harmful.

Figure 1. A flooded road in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, is closed Wednesday morning, as Typhoon Etau landed in Neighboring Aichi Prefecture.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are very important when natural disasters occur. Water-quality models help with these issues by understanding how much and what kind of contaminants can be in the storm and flood waters, and how they can be dealt with. The stormwater produced from the typhoon can contain toxic heavy metals, lead, zinc, and pathogens. These substances can cause economic issues because anyone could get sick from the water and could have expensive medical bills. Environmental issues are also pertinent in natural disasters. This storm caused large amounts of rain to fall accompanied with high winds. These two factors can cause trees to fall or be damaged and possibly die. Trees are essential in water interception and can abstract as much as 48% of rainfall. So, when the number of trees start to decrease, especially in an urban area where there are so few, the rainwater from a heavy storm will greatly affect the amount of storm water. The affect a high wind storm has on trees is shown in the article, “Forest Damage and Recovery from Catastrophic Wind.” This event is a cause-effect relationship and effects society as well because natural disasters can leave a city or town out of commission for a long while by destroying many homes and businesses leaving many people unaware of what to do next.


Everham EM, Brokaw NVL. Forest damage and recovery from catastrophic wind. The Botanical Review. 1996;62(2):113-185. doi:10.1007/bf02857920.

Kyodo, J. (n.d.). Typhoon Etau pummels Japan with gales, heavy rain; evacuations ordered. Retrieved March 22, 2017.

Wiltgen N. Japan Floods, Landslides: 8 Dead, 46 Injured; Missing Persons All Accounted For. The Weather Channel. Retrieved March 22, 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Emily Steenkamer, makes this connection in Rhine-Ruhr, Germany. This current event was reported on The Weather Channel, on June 1st, 2016, under the title, “Here’s What Caused the Deadly Floods in Germany and France,” by Tom Moore. This is likely real news because a similar news story was also reported by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

This news regarding the extreme rain event that hit parts of Germany, along with other European countries, relates to water resources engineering because precipitation is a key factor in this particular field of engineering. It is essential to monitor precipitation because surface water hydrology, along with other related elements such as infiltration, interception, and depression storage, play an important role in engineering hydrology. Understanding rainfall events and how water moves across the Earth allows engineers to model rainfall events, predict runoff quantities and runoff distribution, along with numerous other applications. Extreme rainfall events, like the incident reported in this news story, are of particular interest to water resources engineers because large projects are often designed for these extreme events. The news story reported by Moore is important news for water resources engineering because the “omega block” storm phenomenon that occurred, impacting Germany and other European countries, caused extreme rain and resulted in immense amounts of flooding. Record-breaking rainfall transpired due to the storm, and the rain persisted for days, rather than occurring over a short duration, which would be typical (Moore, 2016). An extreme rainfall event such as this is important to study, especially for a megacity such as Rhine-Ruhr. Urban regions have a higher potential for flooding than rural areas due to the greater amount of impervious land cover that is typically seen in urban environments. Impervious areas – including city streets, sidewalks, roofs of buildings – lead to larger amounts of runoff, and runoff is an extremely important factor in engineering hydrology. This news story fails to make the connection between the massive amounts of rainfall that hit Germany and how the storm and the resultant flooding impacted natural systems such as the Rhine River. It is important to recognize the impact that the extreme rain event had on the river and other flowing systems. It is also important to understand how the runoff may have been distributed across the landscape and beneath the ground.

Figure 1. A submerged car in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany is evidence of the disastrous flooding (DPA, 2016)

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are important to all areas of water resources engineering. These issues can specifically be related to the extreme rainfall and flooding events caused by the storm that was reported in this news story. Economic concerns can be related to this news in several different ways. For one, wealthier regions devastated by flooding are more capable of recovering from the storm at a quicker rate than poorer regions. Less wealthy people will have more trouble recuperating and returning to their daily lives post-storm. They may lack the means to repair or rebuild their homes, replace damaged vehicles, or perhaps start over completely, depending on how badly they were hit by the storm. Another aspect relevant to this weather event is the environmental issues that arise from extreme rainfall and flooding. A major flooding event like this can cause heavy erosion to waterways such as the Rhine River. Erosion to the banks and channel beds causes sediment to wash downstream, and in a case of severe flooding like this, that sediment will be swept across the landscape. Extensive flooding can uproot trees and can erode the soil beneath built structures, causing foundations to fail. Even after the excess water recedes post-flood, there is a potential for issues such as contamination caused by hazardous materials spread by the flood. This also relates to societal matters because floods can lead to a spread of disease and leave cities without clean drinking water (National Geographic, 1996). People can become ill from contaminated water, and homeowners can also become sick from mold growing in their houses that were saturated with water because of the flooding. A journal article entitled “Impacts of natural disasters on environmental and socio-economic systems: what makes the difference?” describes the effects that natural disasters, such as floods, have on the environment and on human lives. It is mentioned that natural disasters directly impact society and the environment, especially in developing regions, because of various factors such as deficiency of funds and/or resources or lack of precautionary planning (Mata-Lima, Alvino-Borba, Pinheiro, Mata-Lima, & Almeida, 2013). Extreme rainfall, flooding, and socio-economic and environmental issues are all interrelated and have a cause-effect relationship. Massive amounts of precipitation lead to flooding, which then impacts the environment and humankind. This can be a treacherous domino effect, and cities across Germany, such as Rhine-Ruhr, and other parts of Europe had to experience this recently.


Moore, T. (2016, January 04). Here’s What Caused the Deadly Floods in Germany and France. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from

Deutsche Welle. (n.d.). Flooding in France, Germany expected to worsen | News | DW.COM | 02.06.2016. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

The Local. (2016, June 1). Lower Bavaria district declares flood “disaster”. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

National Geographic. (2012, October 09). Flood. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

Mata-Lima, H., Alvino-Borba, A., Pinheiro, A., Mata-Lima, A., & Almeida, J. (2013). Impacts of natural disasters on environmental and socio-economic systems: what makes the difference? SciELO Brazil, 16. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and social issues. Our student Erik Ranftle makes this connection in Lima, Peru. This current event was reported in the China Internet Information Center, on March 20, 2017 under the title, Peru hit by drinking water shortage, by the Xinhua News Agency. This is likely real news due to the independent report published on the New Tang Dynasty Television website about the lack of drinking water in Lima, Peru on March 20th, 2017, at here.

This news about water quality during the major flood relates to water resources engineering because the solution to the problem and future prevention will call for engineered solutions. The key message in this article deals with issues faced by WRE during flooding in Peru. The main issue that is faced is finding a way to provide drinking water to the 567,551 people affected by this natural disaster in Lima, Peru. The article talks about how Peru has a great many sources of drinking water. However, access to it does not reach its 30 million residents. During this flood, eight million Peruvians do not have drinking water and are obliged to rely on tanker trucks, usually not receiving enough for basic sanitary requirements. This is very important for WRE because has of March 20, 2017 death toll nationwide has climbed to over 70, with 170 injured and nine missing. It is important that a solution is found before more lives are lost in Lima Peru. The article was missing information on how to supply residence with the drinking water. The article mentions that there are some ideas to control the situation for example the Prime Minister has called on residents to take extreme care of the limited water and to ration its use, while expressing hope the strong rains will stop. The article does explain any method that could be taken right away to supply citizens with a new supply of drinking water. The plain seems to just want to wait till the flooding stops so that the SEDAPAL can begin processing water normally again.

Figure 1: A group of people, stranded in flood waters, hold onto a rope as they struggle through flood waters to safety in Lima, Peru, on March 17, 2017.

Figure 2: A group of people, stranded in floodwaters, walk to safety in Lima on March 17, 2017.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are related to the issues in Lima Peru. Floods relates to economic issues, because floods can destroy property. It leaves many people homeless. Floods also relates to environmental issues. This is because floods can deliver large amounts of pollutants stored on land into the receiving waters. This is what causes the drinking water to become contaminated. Floods also relate to societal issues. This is true because Floods can injure and even kill humans. Drowning is the main cause of people losing their lives during floods. The death toll nationwide has climbed to over 70, with 170 injured and nine missing in Lima, Peru as of March 20th 2017. Based on a report from Doocy (2013), floods are the most common natural disaster and the leading cause of natural disaster fatalities worldwide. There were 539,811 deaths, 361,974 injuries and 2,821,895,005 people affected by all floods between 1980 and 2009. The cause-effect between flooding and the impact to society occurs when water over flows the river tops usually due to excessive rain. As a result, people are exposed to fast moving debris and the possibility of drowning.



Doocy, S., Daniels, A., Murray, S., & Kirsch, T. D. (2013). The Human Impact of Floods: a

Historical Review of Events 1980-2009 and Systematic Literature Review. PLoS Currents, 5, ecurrents.dis.f4deb457904936b07c09daa98ee8171a.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Richard Monaco makes this connection in New York City (NYC). This current event was reported in the Brooklyn Paper on February 1, 2017 under the title, Dangerous levels of lead found in Bay Ridge Middle School’s drinking water by Caroline Spivack. This story is backed up by an article by the Daily News which mentions the Bay Ridge middle school and it’s elevated lead levels.

The news about lead levels relates to WRE in the area of municipal water distribution systems. This is important to us, because as humans our lives are centered around water. From the dawn of civilization, mankind has established tribes and cities where there is access to water. Water is essential to life, and it becomes an issue when this water isn’t safe to drink. And as Engineers, the safety, health and general welfare of the public must be held paramount. However as important as this is, in order to correct the problem, we must know what caused it (which unfortunately isn’t outright stated in the Brooklyn Paper article).

NYC is a very diverse city socio-economically speaking. From the poorest of the poor, to those who can afford to live in a penthouse apartment that overlooks central park, NYC is home to these, and everyone in-between. This is to the point where you’ll have areas that are inundated with wealth, while across the street will be low income housing and many people who live barely above, or even below the poverty line. Before the age of regulation, NYC came to be very dirty and polluted, as well as a very smoggy city. Figure 1 shows an image of the Manhattan skyline during a specific event known as the “1966 New York City Smog”. Lead levels relate to environmental issues under the scope of environmental health (more specifically, the environment around humans, and how does it affect human health). This specific case doesn’t necessarily relate to the socio-economic issues, however in the case of Flint Michigan we have an example of elevated lead levels in an area that is both poor (41.2% of residents live below the poverty line) and predominantly (56.6%) African-American (Library). As this crisis unfolded on the national stage the issue was raised of the old pipes in the neighborhood that were never replaced at the end of their life expectancy, and if it had to do with the socio-economic background of the citizens. Mandour et al.(2013) reported on the correlation between lead levels in drinking water, and lead levels found in mothers’ breast milk. Fifty-two drinking water samples, and fifty-two breast milk samples were taken. A positive relationship between lead levels in the water, and lead levels in the milk was found (Mandour, Ghanem and El-Azab 251-256). This effect from the environment of course has a negative affect on the health of not only the mothers who drink the water, but their infants who drink their mother’s milk (not to mention everybody else who is subject to drinking the lead contaminated water).

Figure 1. 1966 NYC Smog as seen from the Empire State Building


Library, CNN. “Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts – CNN.Com”. CNN. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.

Mandour, Raafat A., Abdel-Aziz Ghanem, and Somaia M. El-Azab. “Correlation Between Lead Levels In Drinking Water And Mothers’ Breast Milk: Dakahlia, Egypt”. Environmental Geochemistry and Health 35.2 (2012): 251-256. Web.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Cecelia McAuliffe makes this connection in Cairo, Egypt. This current event was reported in by Deutsche Welle (DW) online news on June 17th 2016, under the title “Sewage effluent fights desertification in Egypt” by Oliver Ristau. This is likely real news, based on inhabitat, an online news source, providing an independent report on this current event in August 2016, at here.

Throughout Africa, desertification is a major issue, but through planting forests, the spread of desert into fertile land can be stopped. However, where desertification commonly occurs, those areas often do not have readily available clean water to nurture the trees. With Egypt’s research program, The Serapium forest, this complication is avoided with the use of sewage effluent. The sewage effluent is held in a drainage basin outside Cairo, and is distributed to the plantations along the banks of the basin. The effluent water is treated in a two-stage process, where first, garbage and course dirt are removed, and second, oxygen and microbes are added to break down organic materials. At the end of the two-stage process, what is produced is a phosphate and nitrogen rich fluid. The article fails to go into detail on the treatment processes used and the quality of the effluent produced. The objectives of the two-stage process are common objectives held in wastewater treatment plants, however a third stage is often added to remove the phosphates and nitrates. A crew of 18 forestry workers and their manager, Ahmed Ragaie, monitor and maintain the network of irrigation pipes and the forest conditions.  Ragaie tells DW that each tree is given 5 liters of water twice a day and no fertilizer is added due to the nutrient rich effluent water. Regular soil tests show that the effluent has not contaminated the soil. This research opens an alternative use for sewage effluent that would benefit economic, environmental and societal issues.

Figure 1. Drainage basin for sewage effluent

Figure 2. Outside the plantation lies the desert

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are three key factors that are impacted by desertification and water usage. Nurturing plantations with treated effluent water could stimulate the economies of arid regions, like Egypt, creating more jobs and lowering the rate emigration. The Serapium plantation grows trees at a rate four times faster than plantations in Germany, therefore the wood can be harvested and sold as an export. The plantations are helping Egypt inhibit desertification, and produce natural resources.  Europe has also used sewage effluent to improve the productivity of forests and increase the fertility of soils. In Britain, the use of sewage sludge reclaimed ex-mineral and brownfield land for woodland establishment without deleterious environmental consequences (Taylor and Moffat, 1991). Hopefully, Egypt will expand its plantations to an estimated 650000 hectares of the desert if the country were to use 80% of its effluent. The success of the Serapium plantation has attracted investors for the forestation project, thus, Egypt can receive the funding it needs to expand the project.


Taylor C, Moffat A. The potential for utilizing sewage sludge in forestry in Great Britain. Alternative Uses for Sewage Sludge. 1991