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

The story titled, “Global Public Water Alliance Must Not be Allowed to Evaporate” was published December 30, 2013 by The Guardian on their Poverty Matters blog.  The Poverty Matters blog posts stories relating to development in the Third World.  This particular story, written by Municipal Services Project co-director David McDonald, relates to the water resources engineering domain of hydraulics and the specific issue of the supply and transport of freshwater.  Currently, many communities within the Third World have seen their water privatized.  Since private companies operate on decisions made by narrow financial based performance indicators, water services essential for communities are often inadequate.  The Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) is attempting to present some solutions for this problem.  GWOPA is a UN institution that seeks to increase the capacity of public water.  Consisting of NGO’s, organized labor, community activists and prominent academics, GWOPA is able reach out to water operators to promote the partnerships necessary to establish a capable public water infrastructure.  Such operators include governments, communities, labor unions, pipe companies and anyone else involved in the supply and transport of usable, fresh water.  Also, as a UN institution, GWOPA is positioned to influence cooperation between border separated public water utilities, which can significantly aid the establishment of public water infrastructures.  The author acknowledges the difficulties associated with increasing public water capacity.  GWOPA itself is not without its own questionable actions and controversies, which include increased commercialization within the organization and an occasional mind set to “just get it done” regardless of how “it” is accomplished.  Based on my education, it is my opinion that this article presents accurate facts that are applicable to current WRE issues.  The world has given extensive thought to setting water and sanitation targets for Third World communities, however they are often unaffordable for the populous (Dada, 2011).  The services that remain affordable to the public, profitable for the companies involved, and ultimately obtained by communities are often inadequate (Dada, 2011).   Additionally, GWOPA’s methods have been shown to work.  Tekalign Tsige Sahilu, a regional technical advisor for the African Cities Program, has documented how the building of partnerships between government, communities, and utility companies, along with thorough evaluation and assessment by a similar organization to GWOPA, has led to the successful incorporation of harvested rainwater to the public supply of water in several Ethiopian communities (Sahilu, 2011).  It should be noted that while the author stated that past research has shown public water can eventually outperform private water, what the author fails to mention is where the initial investment comes from and how GWOPA engineers the conditions necessary for governments to make such a substantial economic commitment to increasing public water capacity.  The answer to this may be found in deeper analysis of some of the questionable activities that the author concedes, are occurring.  However, by my view, in an area of the world where most people are willing to write off public services in Third World communities, the current work of GWOPA has the potential to shape future water management policy and practice.

Accountability Framework in Nairobi Water Sector (Public Water Development)

Accountability Framework in Nairobi Water Sector (Public Water Development)

Water resources engineering influences global, economic, environmental, and societal context areas because it is an interdisciplinary that manages hydrologic and hydraulic systems at many scales to efficiently deliver services for many users.  Specifically, increasing the capacity of public water in Third World Countries impacts the broader WRE context areas of society and economics.  This can be seen through one of GWOPA’s chief goals, which is reaching out to governments and communities to build working relationships between the two.  Also, since GWOPA advocates for public water as a solution to remedy inadequate water services, this is also a social issue through the effort to improve quality of life.  The context of economics is relevant since the mission of GWOPA is an initiative directed at Third World countries.  Communities within Third World countries live in poverty, and any change in their day to day lives will have some level of economic consequence.  These social and economic impacts have also been reported by Fielmua (2011), who discusses the development of a public water system in Ghana.  Fielmua (2011) describes how the quality and affordability of water services for several select Ghanaian communities has improved since the implementation of the National Community Water and Sanitation Program with Community Management.  The main parts of this program include government investment, community ownership and management, and limited private sector involvement (Fielmua, 2011).  The result has led to available and reliable use for the majority of the Ghanaian communities involved (Fielmua, 2011).  The cause-effect between increasing public water capacity and society is as follows: the promotion, investment, and implementation of increasing the public water capabilities of a Third World community will result in better and more reliable water services, an active and better informed public, a working government-community relationship, and a high quality of life.


Dada, A. C. (2011). Packaged water: optimizing local processes for sustainable water delivery in developing nations. Globalization and health, 7(1), 24.

Fielmua, N. (2011). The Role of the Community Ownership and Management Strategy towards Sustainable Access to Water in Ghana (A Case of Nadowli District). Journal Of Sustainable Development, 4(3), p174. doi:10.5539/jsd.v4n3p174

Sahilu, T. T. (2011, Oct. – Nov.). Falling Blue Gold Helps Urban Africa’s Water Supply. Water and Wastewater International, 26-5, 38-39.