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

The article, “Fixing Our Broken Water Systems” was reported online by the New York Times Editorial Board on February 13, 2016. This article related to the WRE domain of hydrology as it is concerned with water quality after passing through old pipes.  This article brings up concerns about Americas aged water pipes in light of the recent consequences from heavy metals such as lead corroding into Flint, Michigan’s water supply. It is estimated that anywhere from 3.3 to 10 million lead water pipes ae still in use in America even though they were banned by Congress in 1986. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a document outlining the ban of lead pipes on public and private water lines (EPA, 2016). The American Water Works Association predicts that there will need to be 1 trillion dollars in spending in the next 25 years to replace the pipes and hold up the standard of water quality. This article is quite accurate. The EPA’s document proves the accuracy along with the article, “Flint mayor says $55 million needed to replace lead pipes.” This article tells us about the elevated lead levels in the drinking water in Flint, MI and the health and economic consequences. The information missing from this article is how will the pipes be replaced, where will the money come from and is the government going to pay for it all? This information will most likely be presented over time when the government makes a final decision about what to do to replace the pipes.

In a broader sense, this WRE hydrology issue is also a societal, environmental, and economic issue. The societal context refers to humans and their relationships to the community and their government. The environmental context refers to the safety and stability of the natural environment. The economic context refers to money and if or where to spend it. This WRE issue effects the environment due to the pollutants that are being released into the water supply. It is a societal issue because people are becoming sick and blame the government who allowed this to happen. Overall, this is mostly an economic issue because the problem can be solved with a large amount of money. In Lansing, MI lead pipes have been being replaced since 2004 and the local government has spent $42 million so far (Lacy, 2016). Multiple water quality tests are done a day to keep up the health standard and make sure the drinking water is lead-free. Due to the fact that the government did not want to pay to replace lead pipes after they were banned, people became sick and the water quality became unacceptable.


Figure 1 – Water polluted with lead leaving the leaded pipe system through a fire hydrant, this water also goes to the faucet for people to drink.


URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/fixing-our-broken-water-systems.html?_r=0


EPA. (February 15, 2016). “National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)

Document Display.” Retrieved from http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/10003GWO. TXT?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=1986+Thru+1990&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D:\zyfiles\Index%20Data\86thru90\Txt\00000003\10003GWO.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h|&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8/r75g8/x150y150g16/i425&Display=p|f&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=1&SeekPage=x&ZyPURL

Fantz, A. Sgueglia, K. (February 9, 2016). “Flint mayor says $55 million needed to replace lead

pipes.” Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/09/politics/flint-mayor-cost-replace-


Lacy, E. (January 22, 2016). “Lansing BWL’s push to remove lead water lines continues.”

Retrieved from http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2016/01/22/lead-


The Editorial Board. (February 13, 2016). “Fixing Our Broken Water Systems.” Retrieved from