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

The article titled, “Broken Water Main Creates Sinkhole in Southwest Baltimore,” was reported on the Baltimore Sun website on August 15, 2012. This particular news article belongs to the hydraulic domain. The issue is that a water main, that was providing water to some of the city’s residents, broke and began to allow water out which undermined the structure of the soil causing it to collapse and create the sinkhole. The water main was shut off quickly and the street intersection near where the bust occurred was closed down. About 100 people lost water for the day after and traffic had to be diverted away from the area as well. The article accurately represented the facts of the situation. Water was escaping from a broken water main, which would erode the surrounding soil which would move and weaken it which results in the formation of a sinkhole. The article leaves out the cause of the water main break as well as the methods used to remediate the situation.


Figure 1 – A water main break in downtown Baltimore caused pavement on Light Street to buckle. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

This broken water main issue impacts affects the more broad WRE areas of economics and society. The economic impact would be felt by businesses in the area. For example, a restaurant needs a constant supply of clean water in order to function properly. Without that water, they would be forced to close for the day which would result in a loss of potential revenue. Society is impacted because water is not being provided to the people of the city. Some may take it for granted due to its constant presence, but water is an extremely vital part of life. Not having water would take away simple tasks such as washing hands, brushing teeth, and flushing the toilet. Most importantly, water is essential to life and human beings need to drink it to survive.