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

The water resources article I chose was “Big water projects should make us queasy”  The article appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on January 24, 2013.  The article considers a project in the hydraulic domain since the article is about building a pipeline to cities in the west to supply them with drinking water.  The author expresses his concern with the problem of not being able to pay for the pipeline since there has been a decrease in the amount of water being used in most cities in the west.  The article is about possible pipelines that are being planned to bring water to areas of the arid western United States.  The problem behind this is that the demand for water has been steadily decreasing since the 1970s.  Some reasons for this decrease is smaller households, more efficient water fixtures, and more of a conscious effort to conserve water.  These water lines would typically be paid by the sale of bonds.  The bondholders would then be reimbursed by the sales of the water.  However, some are worried if the water demand continues to decrease it will take longer to pay off the multi-billion dollar projects.  Cities like Las Vegas and San- Antonio are at a stalemate since they have installed strong conservation methods.  The cities do not want to urge higher uses of water just to help pay for these projects.  For instance, Las Vegas installed a reward system for homeowners that replaced grass in their yard to desert vegetation, which reduced water demand 18 percent.   In “North America Residential Water Usage Trends Since 1992” prepared by Coomes et al.,  there is a graph of water usage trends of cities in the United States.  Las Vegas has a downwards trend of water usage from 1975 to 2004, concurring with the Salt Lake Tribune report.  However, from 2005 to 2007, there is a small trend upwards where the graph ends so it is inconclusive to decide whether this trend continues.  If it does it may be easier to pay for it.  On the contrary, if the trend does not continue upwards, charging a little more per gallon until it is paid off can help add to the fund to help pay for it.  Unfortunately other cities of the arid West that are considering pipelines are not included on the graph.  Although there seems to be less water being used per household on average, there will always be a demand for water.  Water will always be needed since it is a necessity to life.  It may take more time to pay the pipeline but I don’t see that the pipeline will go to waste since everyone needs water.  In order to cut down on costs, the pipeline could be made with a little smaller diameter in order to decrease the cross sectional area which would cause less flow of water.  If the water was being pumped to the city, the pump could be replaced by a bigger pump if was more of a demand for water. The bigger pump would increase the velocity of the water which would increase the flow to the city.  According to the USGS, water for irrigation in the West has been in withdrawal. Therefore, the water from the pipelines could be used to irrigate crops which would increase revenue to help pay for the pipeline (http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuir.html). The author left out the trend of water usage in the years after 2006. The trend may increase which would be contrary to the point of the article since he stated “Between the 1970s and the late 2000s, the amount of water used by American households fell everywhere…“

In broader context, this problem is an environmental issue; and obviously an economic issue since the main point of the article is how to fund the pipeline.  It is an environmental issue since the loss of water could ultimately cause a disturbance in the ecosystem where the water is drawn from.  Also, the excavation that would have to occur would also damage ecosystems. Economically, it could be troublesome for the taxpayers if the water pipelines are built and they’re not needed to their full capacity.


Figure 1- Excavators places a portion of a pipeline in a ditch. A water pipeline is expensive to install.


Figure 2- A water pipeline in the United Kingdom. Water pipelines can benefit many people, but at the same time can be so damaging financially and environmentally.


“Big Water Projects Should Make Us Queasy.” The Salt Lake Tribune. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

Coomes, Paul, Tom Rockaway, Josh Rivard, and Barry Korns. “North America Residential Water Usage Trends Since 1992.” Louisville.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“Geograph – Photograph Every Grid Square.” HEP Water Pipeline Crossing Gleann Nan Caorann:: OS Grid NN2721. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“Irrigation Water Use.” Irrigation Water Use, the USGS Water Science School. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“Purgatoire Valley Construction, Inc.” – Pipeline. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.