Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Cusick makes this connection in New Delhi, India. This current event was reported in CNN, on Thursday February 25, 2016, under the title “Protests Throw Light on India’s Water Crisis” by reporter Huizhong Wu. An independent source, British National Daily Newspaper The Guardian, has documented this current event on February 22, 2016 for increased reliability citing that Delhi is the midst of a water crisis due to canal damage by protesters.

A west Delhi resident, Sudhir Goswami, is quoted saying, “When there’s no water, there’s no life” in relation to his struggles with water access. New Delhi’s current water crisis is an excellent example of a city that is in dire need of a new water and wastewater infrastructure. With only three hours of running water a day, residents of New Delhi suffer from the unreliability and non-potable of the current water conditions. When protests went array over job quotas, approximately 17 million people were affected by the damaged, open-flowing Munak Canal (Figure 1). The current conditions of New Delhi directly relates to the field of WRE because it shows the implications of an outdated and failing water infrastructure system, in which water pipes are inefficient and cross contaminated with the city’s sewer lines (Figure 2). New Delhi demonstrates the demand for proper WRE management. A nonoperational water system is affecting the daily lives of New Delhi’s residents and is not generating enough revenue to cover the cost of its maintenance. By poor administration and negligence, the residents of New Delhi are forced to drink contaminated water if they cannot afford bottled water. This report failed to mention how WRE authorities plan to resolve the water crisis and how they will maintain it to ensure that the residents of New Delhi are never faced with this hardship again. CNN’s report lacked sufficient information about the age, building materials, maintenance and possible health complication arising from the declining infrastructure.

Figure 1. One of the damaged areas on Mulak Canal by the week-long protests of the Jat caste for more accessibility to civil service careers.

Figure 1. One of the damaged areas on Mulak Canal by the week-long protests of the Jat caste for more accessibility to civil service careers.

Figure 2. An example of an open wastewater canal that flows into bodies of water used as New Delhi’s water supply. Adopted from Hindustan Times

Figure 2. An example of an open wastewater canal that flows into bodies of water used as New Delhi’s water supply. Adopted from Hindustan Times.

New Delhi’s current water crisis is a trifecta of the environmental, economic and societal implications of a WRE-related calamity. This issue sheds light on the financial stratification dominating New Delhi’s society, which affects the accessibility to clean drinking water. In terms of the economy, there is little government support and financial funding to properly dispose and rebuild a new water system. The municipal water supply is not providing its citizens with safe drinking water. Environmentally, the decrypted infrastructure of the water system could have serious implications on the health of its residents. One study in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia has advocated that the corrosion of distribution pipes have leaked copper, zinc and iron into daily drinking water. In short, the older the age of the infrastructure, the greater the metal contamination that can lead to negative human health issues (Alam & Sadiq 1989). Similar water crises have threatened areas close to home in Washington D.C., Flint, Michigan, and St. Joseph, Louisana as people struggle to have access to clean and safe drinking water through proper WRE planning and maintenance. For those who cannot afford to buy bottled water, they are faced with the hardship of storing water in tanks when possible and using water that is dirty and smelly, according to resident Sudhir Goswami. The Annual Review of Environment and Resources have also demonstrated the impact of water contamination on society. According to Schwarzenbach et al., water quality has become a major concern to human health after chemical contamination (2010). Especially in developing countries, such as India, the toxins released from neglected metal water infrastructure create preventable waterborne diseases. With almost 1.1 billion people without access to potable water and another 2.6 billion people without proper sanitation, water contamination is a growing problem to society’s health, economy, and local environment (Schwarzenbach et al. 2010).  Without the proper economic funding for an updated drinking water and wastewater treatment system, the residents of New Delhi, India will continue to have unreliable and limited access to cross-contaminated water. Not only does the cause and effect relationship between New Delhi’s economy and its resident’s health, but also the environmental impact of mismanaged and neglected water and wastewater systems.

References

Alam IA, Sadiq M. Metal contamination of drinking water from corrosion of distribution pipes. Environmental Pollution. 1989;57(2):167-178. doi:10.1016/0269-7491(89)90008-0.

Schwarzenbach RP, Egli T, Hofstetter TB, von Gunten U, Wehrli B. Global Water Pollution and Human Health. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 2010;35. doi:10.1146/annurev-environ-100809-125342.

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