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

The news entitled, “Natural Allies for the Next Sandy” was reported by the New York Times on October 28, 2013. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of the destruction of flooding from severe storms such as hurricane Sandy. In summary, this news article reports on the destruction New York suffered from the flooding that occurred after hurricane Sandy struck the city and other low-lying areas and how natural approaches can be used to combat this type of destruction from future storms. Instead of higher flood walls and more bulkheads, this article suggests implementing reefs in the harbor, marshland around Lower Manhattan or wetlands that can absorb some of the storm surge. Based on my engineering education my informed opinion is the WRE facts presented in this news article need to be heavily considered in future protection from flooding, but the most important thing to understand is that storms and natural features have a very complex relationship, and although this solutions could help buffer New York City from future flooding, it is not the ultimate solution for every scenario. As the National Wildlife Federation reported (2011), not only do we need to protect wetlands from future development, but we need to prevent any development in extreme floodplain regions where destruction is inevitable. Based on critical thinking on this news story, I think the article does a great job at presenting both sides of using natural approaches to combat flooding from severe storms and presents the pros and cons of natural versus artificial solutions well, but lacks specific examples of locations where this research has been conducted.

Predicting where and when flooding will occur and in what magnitude is extremely hard to prevent, but natural solutions may be a key in future prevention of destruction in such large capacities.

Water resources engineering influences many context areas including: global, economic, environmental, and societal. It is interdisciplinary and manages both hydrology and hydraulic systems on many scales for many applications. This news article identifies broader WRE context areas of economics and society, which are both heavily affected by flooding destruction from natural disasters. The economics of flooding is a crucial area, because it causes millions of dollars in destruction of infrastructure and even more to rebuild these areas. An article published by NOVA (2012) describes the many types of natural storm barriers that are being built as part of the cities storm surge protection system and the expensive and permanency of certain chosen solutions. The society area of flooding is important to understand, because flooding causes many people to be displaced during flooding events, causing them to relocate and the government to aid in these difficult time. Governmental policies and regulations about flooding also influence society, and the need for proper communication between government officials and the people they serve.

Salt marches in Jamaica Bay, NY where natural storm barriers are being restored.

Salt marches in Jamaica Bay, NY where natural storm barriers are being restored.

A proposed solution of oyster reefs as an integral part of New York City’s storm surge protection system.

A proposed solution of oyster reefs as an integral part of New York City’s storm surge protection system.

References

Chant, Tim De. “Storm Surges and New York City.” PBS. 13 Nov. 0012. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Fountain, Henry. “Natural Allies for the Next Sandy.” The New York Times 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

“Natural Solutions for an Unnatural Disaster.” National Wildlife Federation. N.p., 8 May 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

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