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

The article “Water: A Social and Economic Catalyst That Deserves Better” was reported by The Huffington Post on March 22nd, 2016 on their website. It was written by Patrick Lavarde, President of International Water Resources Association, as part of a series in conjunction with World Water Day.  The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of water insecurity leading to decreased economic growth. In summary, this news article reports on the relationship between water, economic growth and jobs. The article also stresses the importance of policies regarding water management to be based on solid scientific data and updated technologies.  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. The Global Water Partnership reported that the estimated world economic losses due to poor access to water and sanitation was around $260 billion (Sadoff). This past year, there has been greater attention paid to policies that will manage freshwater sources sustainably which will in turn lead to economic growth. Such policies include the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted last year in September as the successor to the Millennium Development Goals. They are 17 intergovernmental aspiration goals with 169 targets that aim to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change by 2030, while ensuring that no one is left behind. Figure 1 shows all 17 of the goals. I would argue that all 17 of these goals relate to water, but goal number 6 is dedicated to water and sanitation. Some of the targets for goal number 6 include the implementation of integrated water resources management at all levels and expanding international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programs, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies (United Nations). Based on critical thinking on this news story, I think the article has missed reporting important information on how businesses will contribute to this sustainable economic growth and why they should care about policies such as the Sustainable Development Goals. I think this connection is more clearly made in the article “What is the business case for the Sustainable Development Goals?” written by Nicola Ruane for The Huffington Post.

Water resources engineering influences global, economic, environmental, and societal context areas because it is an interdisciplinary discipline that manages hydrologic and hydraulic systems at many scales to efficiently deliver services for many users. I think the purpose of this news article is to stress the positive impact that WRE solutions can have on global, economic, environmental, and societal context areas. There are many examples of outdated water infrastructure failures that have had a negative effect on economies, the environment, and society. As environmental engineers, we have a responsibility to find WRE solutions as water scarcity becomes a global issue. Enacting policies that will sustainably harness water and respect its power will empower communities and ensure global prosperity. These themes are echoed in the Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education article “The Political Economy and Political Ecology of the Hydro-Social Cycle”. The hydro-social cycle is the idea that water and society make and remake each other. The journal article addresses the societal impact of water resources management and organization. Swyngedouw says in the article that more often than not, it is not the issue of absence of water, but rather poverty and governance that marginalizes that makes people die of thirst. Governments need to make better water management policies and investments that will alleviate poverty and in turn make more productive economies.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.45.14 PM

Figure 1: The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations)




Ruane, Nicola. What is the business case for the Sustainable Development Goals?. The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicola-ruane/what-is-the-business-case_b_9806782.html. April 29, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2016.

Sadoff, C.W., Hall, J.W., Grey, D., Aerts, J.C.J.H., Ait-Kadi, M., Brown, C., Cox, A., Dadson, S., Garrick, D., Kelman, J., McCornick, P., Ringler, C., Rosegrant, M., Whittington, D. and Wiberg, D. (2015) Securing Water, Sustaining Growth: Report of the GWP/OECD Task Force on Water Security and Sustainable Growth, University of Oxford, UK, 180pp.

Swyngedouw, E. (2009), The Political Economy and Political Ecology of the Hydro-Social Cycle. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, 142: 56–60. doi: 10.1111/j.1936-704X.2009.00054.x

United Nations. The Sustainable Development Agenda. Sustainable Development Goals website  http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/. Accessed May 3, 2016