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


The news entitled “Storm Water, Long a Nuisance, May Be a Parched California’s Salvation” was reported by the New York Times in their February 19th, 2016 online news. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of storm water capture and draught mitigation. To summarize, the state of California is missing out on usable water in the form of added rainfall due to the El Nino experienced this year. An estimated 200 billion gallons of storm water could be captured, but most is running into waterways and eventually into the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, storm water capture projects particularly in urban areas like Los Angeles are becoming increasingly important. These projects include spreading plots, underground cisterns, new drainage systems on streets parking lots, and driveways, and issuing more fifty gallon rain barrels. Based on my engineering education my informed opinion is the WRE facts in the news are accurate as I show with the following research citations. According to the Los Angeles Times, the State Water Resources Control Board has approved revisions to Los Angeles County’s storm water discharge permit in order to move forward plans for an aquifer recharge system and other forms of green infrastructure such as bio-swales (Morin, 2015). Also, researchers at Stanford Engineering Research Center are developing a project to convert 46 acres of abandoned quarry into a park with storm water capture and treatment capabilities (Jordan, 2016). This eighteen billion dollar project is one of many that the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and City of Los Angeles are funding for green infrastructure and storm water capture (Jordan, 2016). Based on my critical thinking the news story was missing critical information on specific projects that are being planned in California and how citizens can be involved in storm water capture.


This article also has an economic broader context. The overall need for money to satisfy the storm water capture projects of the state of California far exceeds the money available. The cost effectiveness of six different storm water collection designs has been investigated and published in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management (Weiss et al, 2007). According to their research constructed wetlands are the most cost effective to remove pollutants from run-off (Weiss et al, 2007). However, the drawback of wetlands, according to their research, is the large land area they require menaing a higher land cost (Weiss et al, 2007). Meaning, constructed wetlands may be a viable option to cut costs for storm water capture in California.



Figure 1: A greenway on the Los Angeles River designed to absorb storm-water runoff and remove pollutants from the water. Credit Monica Almeida/ The New York Times

Figure 1

Figure 2: The director of park operations for TreePeople, at the opening of a cistern in Los Angeles. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Figure 2






Jordan, R. (2016, September 16). “Stanford researchers look to storm water as a solution for

semiarid regions” Stanford News, Web.


Morin, M. (2015, June 17). “L.A. County’s plan to capture storm water could be state model.”

Los Angeles Times, Web.


Nagourney, A. (2016, February 19). “Storm Water, Long a Nuisance, May Be a Parched

California’s Salvation.” The New York Times, Web.


Weiss, P. T., Gulliver, J. S., & Erickson, A. J. (2007). Cost and pollutant removal of storm-water         treatment practices. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 133(3), 218-         229.