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

The news entitled, “Stormwater Management” was reported by the Massachusetts Government on March of 1997. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issues of stormwater management. In brief, this article reports on the hydrology and stormwater runoff, site planning, and nonstructural and structural best management practices. Massachusetts is developing retention ponds funded by the federal government to help prevent pollution and turbidity to the wetlands. The major functions of the ponds are to prevent wash out and stop salt from going into our wetlands.


Figure 1- Retention pond in Worcester Massachusetts off of I-290

During the winter months salt is used to make the roads dry and free of snow and ice. This salt is eventually transported to our wetlands through both runoff and our drainage systems. Based on my personal experience with detention ponds and WRE, the news story is accurately reporting on an important WRE issue. The retention ponds are being built off of the major highways where the polluted water enters the ponds and then goes through many check dams and spillways to slow down the flow of water and allow sediments to settle. The Environmental Quality Resource (EQR) explains this process of sediment removal through detention ponds, bioretention facilities and structures like inlets, outfalls, and risers (Environmental Quality Resources). Julie A Richburg (2001) discusses how high salt concentrations in the groundwater are due to the application of deicing salts on the Turnpike. The article did not discuss when this project is expected to be finished.


Figure 2- Retention pond in Woburn Massachusetts off of I-93

Water resource engineering focuses its attention to the management of hydrologic and hydraulic systems to reduce any harmful impacts and maximize beneficial impacts. The retention and detention ponds being built in Massachusetts are minimizing the pollutants and sediment that enter our wetlands. This directly affects the broader WRE contexts areas of environment, society, and economics. The ponds create a cleaner and safer environment for the citizens of Massachusetts. Besides improving the environment, the ponds create jobs and bring a cash flow to the state. We need to make these ponds a priority because too much salt and contaminants are running off into the wetland; unfortunately, most of the major highways have a policy that the highways must be black and clear of snow and ice at all times. I interviewed the Vice President of Newport Construction, Anthony Barrile, one of the contractors building these ponds. Anthony (2013) explained that it is difficult to please either side. The state wants to protect their citizens which requires removal of snow and ice in the winter, but also wants to protect the environment. If we reduce salt applications to highways we could cause dangerous driving conditions which could lead to an increase in car accident and deaths due to car accidents. This is a very serious issue to consider, since the environment cannot be compromised for the safety of our people. Other means of deicing need to be used.