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

The article “Customers get murky Asheville water” describes how in November the city of Asheville hired a firm to embark on a hydraulic engineering project, assessing the condition of the city’s pipelines. The city draws its water from the North Fork Reservoir through two pipes that are ninety and fifty years old respectively. Cameras are fed into the pipes to gather information about wall thickness, stability, and pipe and joint location. When these cameras reached low spots in the pipeline in mid January they stirred up sediments that had settle there. The result was over 10,000 customer’s water running discolored, sometimes as dark as coffee. The work was halted to let the sediments settle, and the pipe lines were flushed through fire hydrants. The murky water passes chlorine and bacteria tests for safety, but citizens are not advised to drink it until it runs clear. Unfortunately, the engineers and city workers had not found foolproof way of continuing the work without aggravating the situation.

Murky water from an Asheville tap.

Murky water from an Asheville tap.

Knowing that the water lines being inspected were so old, it was predicted that disturbed sediment was going to be a problem (wspa.com). In a press release, the city of Asheville asked residents to be patient (wspa.com). An appropriate protocol should have been put in place, but The Department of Water Resources did not have a plan, however, nor was the project properly outlined on their public website (ashevillenc.gov).

North Fork Reservoir, Asheville, NC

North Fork Reservoir, Asheville, NC

The problems caused by trying to evaluate the pipes have economic and societal effects on both the city and citizens. City workers have been forced to spend time flushing water lines instead of their usual duties. Businesses that rely on clean water, like restaurants struggle to operate normally, and of course, citizens are inconvenienced by not being able to use their tap water. Here in the United States, a problem like not having access to clean water is an anomaly, but globally, the problem is much worse. About 20% of Asheville residents were effected, but after the project is done, the water will return to its normal condition. Globally, 11% of people are without clean water every day (water.org). No matter where the water quality issues are, they cause economic troubles and health safety issues for all those effected.

Works Cited

“Water Crisis.” Water.org. N.p.. Web. 24 Jan 2013. http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/

“Projects and Initiatives.” ashevillenc.gov. N.p.. Web. 24 Jan 2013. http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/Water/ProjectsInitiatives.aspx

“Inspection of Asheville Water Pipes May Discolor Water.” wspa.com. WSPA. Web. 24 Jan 2013. http://www2.wspa.com/news/2013/jan/16/inspection-asheville-water-pipes-may-discolor-wate-ar-5384052/.

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