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

The article entitled “Safe storage of water? Go underground”, was published in The New York Times on May 1st 2013 and the author was Kate Galbraith. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue is storage of water. In summary, this news article extolls the benefits of the technique called aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) whereby water can be stored in specific aquifers and recovered when required. The benefits reported are that this is less expensive, there is no need to build dams and submerge land which can be used for other purposes with water as the volume available underground is bigger. The act of using the aquifers can even improve water quality in some cases. This technique also greatly decreases evaporation which causes major water losses in arid areas. However there are some disadvantages of using aquifers for water storage, one such case is the state of Florida which had problems in the arsenic content of the water stored in the aquifer, sometimes clogging can also occur or in some states anybody owning land which contains the aquifer could potentially use the water. Based on my engineering education the article makes sense and is supported by the report of Rusell Martin and Peter Dillon for the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity conservation (2002) where they state that aquifer storage and recovery has considerable potential to improve quality and availability of water resources. Another paper states that preliminary modelling of ASR has shown it to be technically and environmentally viable (Dillon et al., 2005). Based on critical thinking about this article, it could have been better if the author had given a case study whereby the ASR was compared to the usual way of storing water in terms of cost to implement project and the quantity of water which could be stored.

Being an interdisciplinary discipline, water resources engineering has a broad impact on factors such as the society, economy and environment to name but a few. From the article, I have identified that the ASR can impact the economy, environment and society. The economy refers to the costs and viability of the project, environment refers to the quality of water to which people have access and society is the interpersonal relationships between people and all of them are affected by availability of water. According to a paper by Sheng (2005), demand for water is ever growing because of the increase in population whereas the water resources are declining due to mismanagement, increase in pollution and climate change. ASR can be used to store reclaimed wastewater and the water can then be recovered and used for irrigation thus alleviating the burden on other water resources.

Generalized cross section area of aquifer storage and recovery.

Generalized cross section area of aquifer storage and recovery.

References:

Martin Russell and Dillion Peter. Aquifer Storage and Recovery future directions for South Australia, Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation. 2002. Report DWLBC 2002/04.

Sheng Zhuping. An aquifer storage and recovery system with reclaimed wastewater to preserve native groundwater resources in El Paso, Texas, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 75, Issue 4, June 2005, Pages 367-377, ISSN 0301-4797, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2004.10.007.

Dillon Peter, Pavelic Paul, Toze Simon, Rinck-Pfeiffer Stephanie, Martin Russell, Knapton Anthony, Pidsley Don. Role of aquifer storage in water reuse, Desalination, Volume 188, Issues 1–3, 5 February 2006, Pages 123-134, ISSN 0011-9164, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.desal.2005.04.109.

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