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

The article, Chinese dare officials to swim in polluted rivers, was published by the associated press on February 20, 2013. The WRE issue involves the hydrology aspect of water quality. China has experienced an economic and industrial boom since the 1960’s. However environmental regulations have not progressed as fast as industries have in China. In Rui’an City in the province of Zhejiang, a local businessman offered about $32,000 to the local environmental protection chief to swim in the polluted river (Tang, 2013). The businessman said that a rubber shoe factory located upstream has been dumping wastewater into the river for years, and he attributes this to the high cancer rate in the area (Tang, 2013). The environmental bureau claims that most of the waste in the river is from residential use (Tang, 2013). The importance of this issue can not be diminished; water quality control is an issue we face on a daily basis. China is a country in development with rapid economic growth and societal improvements. However, as in most developing countries, China’s regulations on dumping and water quality standards have not been enforced consistently. The vice minister of water resources, Hu Siyi, states that 20% of all rivers in China are too toxic for human contact, and 40% are extremely polluted (Tang, 2013). There must be more of an effort made towards environmental regulations during the development of fragile countries that are doing anything to help their people. We have to start transitioning towards sustainable development, to help these people in need while protecting the environment.

In a broader context this water resources issue affects every society and government on the planet. This initial dare sparked numerous other dares around China. In particular, a farmer from the township of Banqiao in the Zhejiang Province offered a similar dare to an environmental official (Clifford, 2013). The farmer posted his dare online, and soon after he was visited by about 40 men and women sent from the government; his house was trashed and he was beaten (Clifford, 2013). The farmer had similar complaints of toxic industrial dumping causing illnesses within his family (Clifford, 2013). The issue of water quality standards for industrial dumping are that industries must be held accountable for not following standards, and the government has the largest authority over these industries. However when the government does not enforce the standards—rather they keep citizens from speaking out against polluting—it will be hard to enforce anything. In order for society to improve water quality standards and regulations industries, governments, and citizens have to work together to educate and speak out against dumping. Water quality is an important aspect of hydrology and it affects the lives of every person on the planet.


Figure 1: Workers cleaning away rubbish and debris along a river in the city of Rui’an, Zhejiang province on February 18, 2013


Figure 2: Chinese farmer Chen Zuqian was beaten up by about 40 men and women after he dared an environmental official to swim in the heavily polluted river in the township of Banqiao, Zhejiang Province.


Clifford , Coonan. “Chinese farmer beaten for daring official to swim in filthy river.” Independent 27 Feb 2013, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.

Tang, Didi. “Chinese dare officials to swim in polluted river.”Associated Press 20 Feb 2013, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.