Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Douglas Allen makes this connection here…

The news entitled, “Woodland Reservoir Ultraviolet Light Treatment Facility Project” was reported by the City of Syracuse Department of Water. Their online news report documents the project’s initial updates beginning on July 20, 2012 and continuing to their most recent entry on January 3, 2013. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology primarily through the distribution of drinking water to the City of Syracuse and providing a clean and safe quality of water with an updated filtration system. The reservoir itself was built in 1884 as the receiving end of the water supply for Syracuse from Skaneateles Lake. The system hasn’t been updated since 1884, and according to an EPA mandate it must be renovated in order to maintain proper filtration of the Skaneateles Lake Water supply. The project involves the demolition of three existing buildings and the construction of two new buildings that will house the new ultraviolet light treatment equipment. Along with the main project the reservoir will be drained and cleaned, which hasn’t been done since the 1930s. Combined with a similar project located at the Westcott Reservoir a few miles away, the ultraviolet system will cost the city around $20 million and should be completed by autumn of 2014.

Figure 1 - Woodland Reservoir prior to construction of new ultraviolet light treatment facility.

Figure 1 – Woodland Reservoir prior to construction of new ultraviolet light treatment facility.

The news story accurately reports on an important WRE issue. Water Resource Engineering involves the construction of facilities that are responsible for meeting water related needs of a society, which is the reasoning behind the updates to the reservoir system. According to Wurbs and James (2002) WRE emphasizes the planning, design, construction, and operation of structures and facilities. In 2009, it was estimated that more than 60,000 different chemicals are used in the United States, but only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act (Duhigg, 2009). The article neglects to inform their audience of how the updated ultraviolet light treatment process will improve water quality or provide any information towards whether or not there will be an increase or decrease in chemical treatment methods.

Figure 2 - Interior of reservoir being drained and cleaned. A more sanitary reservoir could decrease filtration time and further improve water quality.

Figure 2 – Interior of reservoir being drained and cleaned. A more sanitary reservoir could decrease filtration time and further improve water quality.

The hydrology of water distribution demonstrated in the article directly impacts both the societal and economic spectrums. The societal context relates to the relationships between people and their government or between community members. The connection between the City of Syracuse Department of Water and the city’s residents has citizen’s dependant on the availability of clean, safe drinking water. It’s the City of Syracuse’s intent to maintain the exceptional quality of water obtainable in the region and even possibly improve that already high standard. The news report doesn’t mention exactly how the project’s cost of $20 million to the city will be paid for, but it could be assumed to affect the residents as well if it involved a tax increase. The relationship between the WRE topic of the planning, design, and construction of water distribution structures and systems (i.e. reservoirs) and societal issues was reported by Alperovits and Shamir (1977). They state that in order for reservoir systems to have operational storage, they have to be designed for more than one type of loading. The reservoir has to be filled at all times of low demand and then emptied when the demands peak. Therefore it must pass proper design specifications of storage, including its size, the distribution system to further locations, and its operating system. The cause-effect between reservoirs and the societal impact is as follows – a reservoir is designed to distribute clean drinking water to residents of a city or town. If the facility experience some sort of malfunction (i.e. decreased quality), then the possibility of people becoming ill due to contaminated water rises.

References

Alperovits, E., Shamir, U. 1977. Design of Optimal Water Distribution Systems. Water Resources Research, VOL 13. NO 6. Faculty of Civil Engineering, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Duhigg, Charles. 2009. Toxic Waters: A series about the worsening pollution in American waters and       regulators’ response. “That Tap Water is Legal but May Be Unhealthy”. NYTimes.com

Wurbs, R.A., James, W.P., 2002. Water Resources Engineering. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

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