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

The article “Researchers devise hidden dune filters to treat coastal stormwater runoff” was uploaded on March 19th 2013 on sciencedaily.com. This article was based off the research done at North Carolina State University. This article relates the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of water quality. In summary, this article talks about the potential solution for increasing water quality in coastal areas. Due to population growth around beach areas, impervious surfaces generate stormwater runoff which is discharged into beach areas. Stormwater carries pollutants that are detrimental to the aquatic environment and human health. The researchers designed two dune filter systems in Kure Beach North Carolina. These dune filter systems consist of a diversion to divert stormwater from a beach discharge pipe and diverted to a pipe distribution system. The stormwater is then transported to open bottom chambers buried beneath the sand dunes. The stormwater infiltrates into the sand and spreads out laterally underneath the dunes. This water then mixes with the groundwater and begins to move downslope beneath the surface of sand towards the ocean. The groundwater/stormwater mixture then discharges beneath the ocean. As the stormwater moves with the groundwater, bacteria are filtered between particles of sand. The article stated that this filtration design reduced the concentration of bacteria by 96 percent. Based on my engineering education I think that the WRE facts stated in this article are accurate. ABB which is a water treatment facility located in Dunea Netherlands uses these natural systems to purify water for over 1.2 million people (ABB). There filtration process takes around 2 months before they are willing to sell it. It was stated in this article that they supply 80 million cubic meters of water per year. This proves that these types of systems can be used on a large scale. Important information that I didn’t find in the article was the total cost for building this filtration system. The article only states that there was a low cost associated with the design of this system. It would have been more convincing if they stated exactly how much materials for this design would cost.

Water resources engineering influences global, economic, environmental and societal context areas due to the clear understanding of hydrologic and hydraulic systems and the importance of water. The broader WRE context areas of environmental and societal are impacted by this hydrology water quality issue. The environmental context relates to the quality of the environment, biodiversity and interactions within the environment. The societal context typically relates to human interactions such as with the environment, government and with each other. Based on the article, the dune filtration system has the ability to improve the quality of water by removing bacteria from the stormwater therefore improving the environment. The improvement in environmental quality goes hand and hand with the societal context. As the beach continuously becomes cleaner, more people use the beach due to its aesthetic value. A stronger connection between human and environment will form. It was reported by Price (2013) that as water moved laterally beneath the dunes, the concentration of enterococci (fecal bacteria) decreased.  It was also reported that these systems don’t have negative impacts on dune stability or groundwater systems when used to treat runoff from smaller watersheds. These types of systems have the ability to provide opportunities for environmental awareness and education. The cause-effect between improving water quality and society is that people will have the ability to observe and learn from this type of system. People will become aware that there is a problem with the stormwater runoff that is discharged into beach areas. This will push people towards the support of environmentally sound design systems and spread an appreciation for the environment.

Sand dune filtration system diagram.

Sand dune filtration system diagram.


North Carolina State University. “Researchers devise hidden dune filters to treat coastal stormwater runoff.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 March 2013. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130319124223.htm

W.D. Price, M.R. Burchell, W.F. Hunt, G.M. Chescheir. Long-term study of dune infiltration systems to treat coastal stormwater runoff for fecal bacteria. Ecological Engineering, 2013; 52: 1

Online posting. ABB automation to contol unique sand dune water filtration process. ABB. N.p., 26 Oct. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.abb.com/cawp/seitp202/1b961d8be36e99c3c12577a5004617ef.aspx>.