Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with societal, environmental, and other issues. Our student Mr. Aderman makes this connection here…

The GMA News  Science and Technology reported on January 28, 2012 “Singapore adapts to sea level rise brought by climate change.” The article relates to Water Resources Engineering in many ways, mostly because engineers must study the many different components of the hydrologic cycle in order to best predict the true extent of sea level rise and future conditions.  Also, the article discusses many ways that Water Resource engineers and Geotechnical engineers can collaborate to design structures that to prevent flooding damage from rising sea level.  Specifically, Singapore is raising their breakwaters and regulating that all new reclaimed land must be 2.25 meters above the highest recorded high tide.

Singapore Map from WorldAtlas.Com

According to the World Bank Development Indicators, 100% of Singapore’s population lives in urban areas and the country is the second most densely populated in the world.  The combination of this population density and the fact that Singapore is a very low lying, island nation, millions of inhabitants can potentially be affected by a few meters of sea level rise. The article that I read did not go into very much detail about water resources engineering because it was from a common news site that was aimed at the general public.  The article mostly talked about the economics of Singapore, proposed development ideas, and some climate data.  Because the article was not intended for an engineering audience it did not go into much detail about the hydrologic cycle or technical aspects of the designs.

Model prediction of sea level rise in Singapore (red indicates most vulnerable areas)

On larger scale, this article is related to environmental problems because it deals with the effects global climate change and unsustainable natural resource use.  The major problem with Singapore is that they do not have enough land area to adopt renewable energy, such as solar and wind, on a large scale.  Also, in order to protect their precious land from flooding caused by sea level rise, they rely heavily on imported sand and natural resources to build up structures and this is very unsustainable.  The article also has a global connection because this issue does not only affect Singapore, but any coastal cities and settlements, including giant coastal ports such as Hong Kong, New York City, and New Orleans. If the global climate continues to change and cause the sea level to rise, thousands of other cities that may not have the great economic power that Singapore does will have to find alternative solutions to combat the rising sea level.

If sea levels continue to rise, high tides could move water high into people property, causing property destruction, and human injury due to debris and structure collapse. Countries must globally collaborate in order to limit the damage done by rising sea levels. Large, wealthy nations like the United States that have the time and resources to devote to researching and engineering structures to help these coastal cities and towns against floods must have an obligation to pass on the information to lesser developed nations in order to protect the global ecosystem.