Archive for April, 2017

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our student Geoffrey Golick makes this connection in Shanghai, China.  This current event was reported by the English-language China News Service (ECNS) online news on April 13th, 2017, under the title, “Shanghai lacking in environmental protection, inspectors find” by Feng Shuang.  This is likely real news, based on the many sources stating Shanghai’s poor water quality and pollution problems, including a news article on NASDAQ’s online news service.

This news article relates to water resources engineering in the specific area of water distribution systems and their performance criteria.  The focus of the article deals with the extreme pollution conditions that are present in Shanghai, and the lack of law enforcement patrolling the polluters.  In 2013, 800 companies were ordered by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to stop production due to excessive pollution, and are still running today.  Water quality in Shanghai has not been getting better, but has been worsening since 2013.  Out of 259 water samples tested, 88 were deemed unfit to be used even for irrigation or industrial purposes, let alone potable water.  This is important news for water resources engineering because it is the job of the engineers and scientists to treat the water.  At a certain point, having regulations on emissions just is not enough, especially when the regulations are not being met.  Water treatment plants need to be designed by engineers to help produce suitable water for the people of Shanghai to drink.  What is missing from the article is the status of current water treatment plants that are in Shanghai, and the quality of water that is coming from them.  Also, the condition of the water distribution pipe network in Shanghai is not noted in the article.

Figure 1: The Huangpu River through downtown Shanghai

The water quality issues in Shanghai has significant impacts environmentally, socially, and economically.  First, to treat the raw water in the Huangpu River (Fig. 1) in Shanghai, there needs to be funding.  It is expensive to put water through all the treatment processes of that it goes through in a water treatment plant.  Shanghai is one of the richest cities in China by gross domestic product, and, in recent years, they have been putting money into treating the water coming from the river.  However, the factories are still not being regulated by law enforcement and continue to dump chemicals into the river, along with raw sewage being discharged into the river.  Clearly, this is a large environmental concern.  The Huangpu River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, and it serves as the main source of drinking water for a great many people living in one of the largest cities in the world.  While residents of Shanghai can drink the tap water by using a filter attached to their faucet, it is not recommended for anyone from a developed country to drink any tap water in Shanghai.  This causes social issues as well.  The wealthy can afford to have bottled water, a filter on their tap, or even cleanlier distribution systems.  The poor people of Shanghai are forced to drink only what they have available to them.  The poor quality of tap water in Shanghai was also reported by Yao et. al. (2015) who studied six different inorganic anions present in water samples from Shanghai taps.  Yao et. al. (2015) found through their studies that tap water in most districts of Shanghai is polluted with inorganic anions, and that the phosphorous pollution in Shanghai is especially serious.  The cause-effect relationship between water pollution and its impact to society happens when the high concentration of contaminants begins to cause ailments in the people drinking the water, making the water quality detrimental to the health of the people.


Yao, D., Zhang, K., Wang, C., Zhu, L. (2015) The Analysis on the Evaluation of Shanghai Tap Water Quality in Terms of Inorganic Anion Concentration. Shanghai, China: Shanghai Normal University.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Jessica Emmerson, makes this connection in Istanbul, Turkey. This current event was reported in Information Technology Newsweekly, on April 4th, 2017, under the title, “Investigators from Istanbul University Release New Data on Information and Data Systems [Prediction Of Water Consumption In Istanbul By Means Of Statistical Forecasting Models & Geographic Information Systems (gis)”.This is a reliable news source based on the fact that it is based on research done by Istanbul University and the research is also referenced in “Istanbul : the challenges of integrated water resources management in Europa’s megacity”, an article from the journal, Environ Dev Sustain.

Figure1. Scenic downtown Istanbul, a relatively dense city of Turkey

The completion of the research by Istanbul University marks a very important moment in the way water infrastructure projects are viewed in the megacity and surrounding areas. Drinking water consumption is a constraint on water system designs that was not, until now, effectively modeled. “As such, effective investment can be considered and supported” (Information Technology Weekly). This is important in developing sustainable and successful infrastructure investments for the city. The report of the research completion may have been more informative if it included a broad overview of the results for the city.

Figure2. The breathtaking coast line of The Turkish Capitol City of Istanbul

In the water consumption area of WRE, the nexus of sustainability is invaluable. Without the environmental and societal sustainability, no project would be able to be economically sustainable. Being able to properly predict water consumption in a city as large as Istanbul is pertinent to being socially sustainable, because a water shortage would bring issues to the people that use the water. Water consumption, if too high and unaccounted for can also cause drought which would have a largely negative effect on the natural environment in and around the city. Anthropogenic draught has been seen occurring in California for many years. This has caused a slew of different issues but a prevalent social and economic issue was discussed in Nature magazine in an article titled “Water and climate: Recognize anthropogenic drought”. “Streams and wetlands are drying up, including the American River hatcheries of steelhead and Chinook salmon. More than 17,000 jobs have been lost, mainly in poor rural communities” (Nature, 409). Impacts of drought are dependent on the region, as in California the hatcheries suffered and thus caused economic and social issues, but in another region, it would be different depending on what areas the water services. If the water consumption in Istanbul was still being predicted with unsophisticated models as in the past, water scarcity could occur and cause similar issues to that of California. Istanbul is also a coastal City, on the Sea of Marmara off of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Drought within the city of Istanbul would cause major economic despair because a city cannot function without a proper amount of water being distributed. Because Istanbul is Turkey’s largest industrial city and therefor makes up most of the economic activity for the country, it would be detrimental to the entire country.


Aghakouchak A, Feldman D, Hoerling M, Huxman T, Lund J. Water and climate: Recognize anthropogenic drought. Nature. 2015;524(7566):409-411. doi:10.1038/524409a.

Investigators from Istanbul University Release New Data on Information and Data Systems [Prediction Of Water Consumption In Istanbul By Means Of Statistical Forecasting Models & Geographic Information Systems (gis)]. (2017, April 4). Information Technology Newsweekly, 77.

Leeuwen K, Sjerps R. Istanbul : the challenges of integrated water resources management in Europa’s megacity. Environ Dev Sustain. 2015;18(1):1-17.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Katherine Eckam makes this connection in Kinshasa, Congo. This current event was reported in Thomson Reuters international multimedia news agency on March 8, 2017, under the title, “Congo risks 50 percent drop in power output due to low rainfall”, by Aaron Ross. This is likely real news, based on Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences providing a lesson on environments of Africa, which included an article on low rainfall in Congo, by Dr. Tanya Furman at here.

The news about the lack of rainfall causing low amounts of power output relates to water resources engineering in the specific areas of hydropower. The key message in this article is the impacts of climate change range farther than just a decrease in rainfall. Precipitation has become a power and electricity source that Congo has become dependent on due to advances in hydropower technology. A lack of rainfall causes a decrease in water levels, which decreases water head and thus power. This lack of power would affect many aspects of Congo’s way of life and economy. In my critique of this news story, I think the article has missed important information on why exactly power would decrease if rainfall continues to decrease. They explain that Congo is dependent on hydropower for electricity but fail to explain what variables hydropower is dependent on. They also mention at the end of the article that there are plans to build a new dam on the Congo River but don’t explain how this dam will be able to provide sufficient power in lieu of the lack of precipitation while the existing dam is failing.

Figure 1. Grand Inga dam in Democratic Republic of the Congo. A new 4,800 MW dam on the Congo River as part of an envisioned 44,000 MW Grand Inga project could compensate for power outages.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are the three key factors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s’ Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper addressing climate change. The paper sees reducing emissions from deforestation and use of hydropower for electricity as crucial key initiatives to contribute to sustainable development in the country, which includes Kinshasa, Congo. The shortage of rainfall in Kinshasa, Congo relates to environmental issues, because the scarce rainfall has caused the Congo River to reach its lowest level in more than a century. The country’s environment minister sees climate change as the cause of this scarcity. The mining chamber has reached out for the country’s energy sector to address the problem and find a solution for this environmental dilemma. According to the article, the government responded with plans to build a new 4,800 MW dam on the Congo River as part of a 44,000 MW Grand Inga project. Charles Kyona, president of the chamber of mines in Congo, reported the societal effects of this rain shortage in the article when he stated that the miners do not have the means to work effectively without the electricity produced by hydropower. This could mean the citizens of Kinshasa could face not only a deficiency of water and electricity, but losses of jobs as well. Hydropower relates to economic issues because the country is dependent on hydropower for nearly all its electricity (Figure 1). A lack of rainfall, and thus hydropower, could mean a loss of 350-400 MW of power of the 850 MW currently produced. Medard Katakana, an official of the National Electricity Company, told Isango (2017) of VOA news, “We fear that if we don’t have enough water, we would have to stop the turbines because they cannot function when the water is below a certain level.” This would affect not only the copper industry, which produces the most copper in all of Africa, but also all other businesses currently keeping Kinshasa’s economy afloat. The cause-effect between rainfall shortage and impact to the economy of Kinshasa occurs when there is no longer enough water to turn the turbines that generate more than half of the area’s power output, taking away the ability of copper industry miners to work effectively and leaving businesses without electricity.


Isango, Eddie. “DRC Faces Power Shortage Caused By Drought”. VOA. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Eleanor Clark, makes this connection in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This current event was reported in Time magazine, on Oct 13, 2015, under the title, “A Megacity Without Water: São Paulo’s Drought”, by Jon Gerberg. This is likely real news based on Nation Public Radio in November 2015 providing an independent report on this current event, at here.

This event is relevant to water resources engineering as it deals with water demand, pipe networks, and storm-water control methods. The focus of this report is on the need for infrastructure changes and repairs in Sao Paulo to combat the effects of increased extreme climate events. As a result of the drought and a poorly managed water distribution and pipe system, citizens of Sao Paulo suffer daily 12-hour water cut-offs. Sao Paulo is a city known for its abundance in freshwater resources but not all of that water is able to be used for drinking. For example, on the south of the city lies another reservoir, Billings Reservoir, that contain 20% more water than the Cantareira but is too polluted to be portable. Also, the drought in Brazil not only effected the water supply for human use but also for hydroelectric power plants that are used to supply 70% of the electricity for the country (de C. D. Melo D 2016). The article was missing information on the exact measures that were or are being taken to improve the infrastructural management of these reservoirs.

Figure 1: Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira reservoir

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are the three key factors that are used to define sustainability in Sao Paulo, Brazil Water Resource Management. In this case, water resource engineering is being used to address the water deficiency problem in the community through an analysis of the available freshwater and possible sources of pollution in Brazil. Design efforts have been made to create an interstate basin system that allows the basins in the area to feed each other and create an interactive water system for Sao Paulo and the 29 million people serviced by the Cantareira reservoir (de C. D. Melo D 2016). This results in increased water security for human drinking and energy use. As an area known as the Saudi Arabia of water, it is important to protect the integrity of water reservoirs in order to protect the cultural practices of the people. “Water is life.”


de C. D. Melo D, Scanlon B, Zizhan Z, Wendland E, Lei Y. Reservoir storage and hydrologic responses to droughts in the Paraná River basin, south-eastern Brazil. Hydrology & Earth System Sciences [serial online]. November 2016;20(11):4673-4688. Available from: Environment Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 6, 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Grace Anderson makes this connection in South Korea. This current event was reported in The Korea Herald on July 6, 2016, under the title “N.K. Unleashes Flash Flood from Dam Without Warning Seoul” by Shin Hyon-hee. This event was predicted by Bloomberg in the U.S. on July 4th, 2016, in an article titled “South Korea Fears Flooding From North Discharging Dam Water” by Shinhye Kang, since heavy rainfall occurred just days before North Korea released the dam, causing problems for South Korea and Seoul. The Daily Mail in the U.K. reported the event, sharing videos from Korean students of a library catastrophically flooding at Yonsei University in Seoul.

This event is related to water resources engineering because it affected South Korea’s capacity for flooding and stormwater management. The event happened after a significant rainfall event, which caused the Hwanggang dam on the Imjin River to fill up which motivated North Korea to release some of the water from it. This event highlights the “triple bottom line” aspect of engineering also, since politics clearly play a large role in the international sharing of water resources between North and South Korea. The two nations have an agreement from 2009 in which the North pledged to warn the South of any dam discharge, which they broke when they flooded South Korea unexpectedly in this event. South Korea immediately warned people living near the affected areas to evacuate, cautioning citizens of potential mudslides and dangerous flooding. Seoul’s roads, rivers, and canals were flooded since they were not built for such a sudden massive flood. This event was likely larger than any design flood, such as a 50-year, since it was essentially man-made and it also occurred shortly after a period of heavy rain so the capital was already managing a lot of stormwater. This is an important event because it exemplifies the important role that water resources play in politics. The South Korean military did not identify the sudden opening of the dam as a deliberate flooding attack, but the event surely heightened tensions between the two governments. The Korea Herald article states that the Unification Ministry in Seoul “urg[ed] Pyongyang [North Korea] to follow through on the agreement” that they made in 2009. A ministry spokesperson is quoted saying, “North Korea… should show that it’s willing to cooperate on little things like the water discharge.” Clearly water resources play an important role in more than just engineering. The Korea Herald did not include enough engineering information in their report of this event. Author Shin stated that the waterways in the Imjin River region widened from 80 to 280 meters, but no other relevant data was cited. To fully understand the impact of this event on Seoul and other impacted regions of South Korea, a flow or volume estimate or measured value should have been given.

Figure 1: Flooding in Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. This photo is a still from a YouTube video posted by a student after the catastrophic event.

North and South Korea have had a politically tumultuous relationship for a long time, and issues such as the North flooding the river into the South by releasing water from the Hwanggang dam near their Southern border are a symptom of that. This event relates to economic issues in that the municipalities of Seoul and other affected cities in South Korea had to repair and replace damage property and flooded roads, canals, and water treatment facilities. It relates to environmental issues because the canals and waterways were widened so greatly, which very likely had an impact on fish and other aquatic life habitats. This event relates to social issues because it destroyed farms, homes, businesses, and schools throughout the Imjin region of South Korea, including in the megacity capital Seoul. The article mentions that last May, North Korea did the same thing with the Hwanggang dam and it hurt fishing families in the South who lost their fishing gear and thus their livelihood.  I have found that the economic impacts on a mega city under flood conditions was also reported by Jennifer Rhodes in 1996, who wrote that “hydraulic events… account for more losses than any other natural disaster” and that the damage caused by flooding on highways specifically was not only problematic for the high repair costs, but also in the “lost productivity and commerce for local business and industry” (Rhodes, 1996). This cause-effect between flooding and economic impacts to cities occurs when floods overtop their floodplains or their rivers/canals, and the floodwater reaches structures that are unprepared for the depth and/or momentum of the flowing or still floodwater. This damage causes economic stress on the cities that must repair the affected structures, such as highways mentioned by Rhodes.


  1. The Korea Herald. “N.K. Unleashes Flash Flood from Dam Without Warning Seoul”, 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  2. Kang, Shinhye. “South Korea Fears Flooding From North Discharging Dam Water.” Bloomberg. N.p. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  3. Mallinson, Harriet. “Terrifying Moment Water Cascades Through University Library Ceiling”. Daily Mail. N.p. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  4. Rhodes, Jennifer. “Economics of Floods, Scour, and Bride Failures”. Hydraulic Engineering 1 (1993): n. pag. Web. 1 Apr. 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental and societal issues. Our student Christopher Wren makes this connection in Paris, France. This current event was reported in The Local, on February 26,2014 under the title, “Tap water ‘polluted’ for 1.5 million in France“, by Joshua Melvin. A study supporting this information was published in Wiley Online Library and can be found at here.

Although clean drinking water is a staple for healthy living, it is becoming increasingly harder to supply even in well developed countries such as France. A large portion of the water supplied in France comes from aquifers beneath the ground surface. The over use of pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural regions around Paris have allowed these substances to leach into the groundwater supply. Also worth noting is the presence of natural, yet harmful substance, Selenium. Selenium contamination occurs when the ground water supply is drawn too low from over use. This problem stems from two issues related to WRE, water supply, and water treatment. Issues like these are far too common in the Water Resource Engineering field. As more cases are uncovered, the need for WRE is clear. This article did not however address any plans of action to address this issue.

Figure1. Spraying pesticides as seen here lead to groundwater contamination.

The rural agricultural region surrounding Paris is experiencing the worst water quality. The heavily populated city of Paris relies on these agricultural lands to provide food for the city. The lack of clean drinking water in these areas can lead to economic, environmental and societal issues for Paris. The contamination within the groundwater supply could spread to surface water and affect the local ecosystem. From and economic standpoint, France will need to spend more money for sufficient water treatment for the areas in need. However, the most immediate impact is the danger associated with drinking contaminated tap water. 1.48 million people who are drinking the contaminated water are at risk of health issues. More information on these risks can be found in the EPA’s report, “Nitrate and Pesticides in Ground Water” which can be accessed at this website.


“Tap Water ‘Polluted’ For 1.5 Million In France”. N.p., 2017. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Tournebize, J., Gramaglia, C., Birmant, F., Bouarfa, S., Chaumont, C. and Vincent, B. (2012), CO-DESIGN OF CONSTRUCTED WETLANDS TO MITIGATE PESTICIDE POLLUTION IN A DRAINED CATCH-BASIN: A SOLUTION TO IMPROVE GROUNDWATER QUALITY. Irrig. and Drain., 61: 75–86. doi:10.1002/ird.1655

“EPA’s Report On The Environment | US Environmental Protection Agency”. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Daniel Wierzba makes this connection in Osaka, Japan. This current event was reported in the Japan Times on January 24, 2014 under the title “Quake will cut water to 94% of Osaka”. The information in this article is supported by information on the Osaka municipal water supply’s website under the earthquake preparedness section ().

This current event relates to the water distribution subdiscipline of WRE. An earthquake can be devastating to a city’s water distribution network. As the earth heaves under an earthquake it can fracture pipes buried in the ground (“Quake will cut water,” 2014). These cracks will disrupt flow to as many as 8.3 million people and can allow infiltration of contaminated water into a distribution system. This news is important because it demonstrates flaws in the water distribution system and challenges engineers to design a system for uninterrupted water access during an earthquake event. The article explains what events are predicted to happen but does not include any measures that were taken to minimize the damage that can be caused by an earthquake.

A water shortage can affect the economic, environmental, and societal aspects of a city. WRE relates to these three aspects in Osaka as economies are reliant on people who are in turn reliant on clean drinking water. The health of the surrounding environment can be affected by the discharge of untreated waste water which can happen in the event of a quake. Finally, people are affected by the lack of access to drinking water. The destruction can cause upwards of $309 billion in cases of the 2011 quake and tsunami in Japan as reported by the BBC ( March 23, 2011). As seen in figure 1 the destruction of an earthquake can be immense. Due to the nature of the event it affects not only surface infrastructure but also buried utilities such as water distribution. The damage to the water distribution system alone is estimated at $253 million (“Quake will cut water,” 2014). In order to be better prepared for these disasters an Osaka based company has developed flexible earthquake resistant pipe to minimize water interruptions. The pipe is shown in figure 2. Interrupted water access is a societal issue in Osaka, but they are prepared for it. Supplies of drinking water are stored in case of an interruption in service (Foster, 2011). The importance of uninterrupted water supply during a disaster was explored in a 2005 paper by Adam Rose and Shu-Yi Liao in The Journal of Regional Science. They found that areas that suffer less utility damage lose less productivity and get back to normal faster than areas that are without utilities for extended periods of time. WRE is working to provide continuous water service in times of natural disasters.



BBC. (2011). Japan says quake rebuilding to cost as much as 25tn yen. Retrieved from (

Foster, P. (2011). Japan earthquake: country better prepared than anyone for quakes and tsunamis. The Telegraph. Retrieved from (

Japan Times. (2014). Quake will cut water to 94% of Osaka. Retrieved from (

 GESAP. (2008) Water Supply System in Osaka, Japan: Earthquake Preparedness. Retrieved from (

Rose, A. & Liao, S.Y. (2005), Modeling Regional Economic Resilience to Disasters: A Computable General Equilibrium Analysis of Water Service Disruptions. Journal of Regional Science, 45: 75–112. doi:10.1111/j.0022-4146.2005.00365.x (

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Rachel Rubach make this connection in Nagoya, Japan. This current event was reported in The Japan Times, on September 9th, 2015, under the title, Typhoon Etau Pummels Japan with Gales, Heavy rain; Evacuations Ordered, by Kyodo. This is likely a real news story since Typhoon Etau was recorded by The Weather Channel, who also provides an article on the subject.

Typhoon Etau reached its peak strength and hit Japan September 9th, 2015. The max rainfall of 26.30 inches was located in Tochigi, while Nagoya received 5.79 inches. While this wasn’t the maximum amount that fell on Japan, this much rainfall can still cause flooding and destruction. This news relates to water resources engineering because water-quality models are used in events of large stormwater surges, and pollutant loads contained in stormwater can be estimated. This is important news for water resources engineering because large urban areas, like Nagoya, are especially under concern with respect to their impact on water quality. Large urban areas, being highly populated, produce a higher concentration of pollutants per area. Due to this and because of the urban landscape, natural buffering like trees and greenery are lacking which can greatly affect the presence of stormwater and floods. This report could have given more information about how this stormwater can transfer contaminants and harmful pollutants, and if the people should be looking out for anything that could be harmful.

Figure 1. A flooded road in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, is closed Wednesday morning, as Typhoon Etau landed in Neighboring Aichi Prefecture.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are very important when natural disasters occur. Water-quality models help with these issues by understanding how much and what kind of contaminants can be in the storm and flood waters, and how they can be dealt with. The stormwater produced from the typhoon can contain toxic heavy metals, lead, zinc, and pathogens. These substances can cause economic issues because anyone could get sick from the water and could have expensive medical bills. Environmental issues are also pertinent in natural disasters. This storm caused large amounts of rain to fall accompanied with high winds. These two factors can cause trees to fall or be damaged and possibly die. Trees are essential in water interception and can abstract as much as 48% of rainfall. So, when the number of trees start to decrease, especially in an urban area where there are so few, the rainwater from a heavy storm will greatly affect the amount of storm water. The affect a high wind storm has on trees is shown in the article, “Forest Damage and Recovery from Catastrophic Wind.” This event is a cause-effect relationship and effects society as well because natural disasters can leave a city or town out of commission for a long while by destroying many homes and businesses leaving many people unaware of what to do next.


Everham EM, Brokaw NVL. Forest damage and recovery from catastrophic wind. The Botanical Review. 1996;62(2):113-185. doi:10.1007/bf02857920.

Kyodo, J. (n.d.). Typhoon Etau pummels Japan with gales, heavy rain; evacuations ordered. Retrieved March 22, 2017.

Wiltgen N. Japan Floods, Landslides: 8 Dead, 46 Injured; Missing Persons All Accounted For. The Weather Channel. Retrieved March 22, 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Emily Steenkamer, makes this connection in Rhine-Ruhr, Germany. This current event was reported on The Weather Channel, on June 1st, 2016, under the title, “Here’s What Caused the Deadly Floods in Germany and France,” by Tom Moore. This is likely real news because a similar news story was also reported by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

This news regarding the extreme rain event that hit parts of Germany, along with other European countries, relates to water resources engineering because precipitation is a key factor in this particular field of engineering. It is essential to monitor precipitation because surface water hydrology, along with other related elements such as infiltration, interception, and depression storage, play an important role in engineering hydrology. Understanding rainfall events and how water moves across the Earth allows engineers to model rainfall events, predict runoff quantities and runoff distribution, along with numerous other applications. Extreme rainfall events, like the incident reported in this news story, are of particular interest to water resources engineers because large projects are often designed for these extreme events. The news story reported by Moore is important news for water resources engineering because the “omega block” storm phenomenon that occurred, impacting Germany and other European countries, caused extreme rain and resulted in immense amounts of flooding. Record-breaking rainfall transpired due to the storm, and the rain persisted for days, rather than occurring over a short duration, which would be typical (Moore, 2016). An extreme rainfall event such as this is important to study, especially for a megacity such as Rhine-Ruhr. Urban regions have a higher potential for flooding than rural areas due to the greater amount of impervious land cover that is typically seen in urban environments. Impervious areas – including city streets, sidewalks, roofs of buildings – lead to larger amounts of runoff, and runoff is an extremely important factor in engineering hydrology. This news story fails to make the connection between the massive amounts of rainfall that hit Germany and how the storm and the resultant flooding impacted natural systems such as the Rhine River. It is important to recognize the impact that the extreme rain event had on the river and other flowing systems. It is also important to understand how the runoff may have been distributed across the landscape and beneath the ground.

Figure 1. A submerged car in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany is evidence of the disastrous flooding (DPA, 2016)

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are important to all areas of water resources engineering. These issues can specifically be related to the extreme rainfall and flooding events caused by the storm that was reported in this news story. Economic concerns can be related to this news in several different ways. For one, wealthier regions devastated by flooding are more capable of recovering from the storm at a quicker rate than poorer regions. Less wealthy people will have more trouble recuperating and returning to their daily lives post-storm. They may lack the means to repair or rebuild their homes, replace damaged vehicles, or perhaps start over completely, depending on how badly they were hit by the storm. Another aspect relevant to this weather event is the environmental issues that arise from extreme rainfall and flooding. A major flooding event like this can cause heavy erosion to waterways such as the Rhine River. Erosion to the banks and channel beds causes sediment to wash downstream, and in a case of severe flooding like this, that sediment will be swept across the landscape. Extensive flooding can uproot trees and can erode the soil beneath built structures, causing foundations to fail. Even after the excess water recedes post-flood, there is a potential for issues such as contamination caused by hazardous materials spread by the flood. This also relates to societal matters because floods can lead to a spread of disease and leave cities without clean drinking water (National Geographic, 1996). People can become ill from contaminated water, and homeowners can also become sick from mold growing in their houses that were saturated with water because of the flooding. A journal article entitled “Impacts of natural disasters on environmental and socio-economic systems: what makes the difference?” describes the effects that natural disasters, such as floods, have on the environment and on human lives. It is mentioned that natural disasters directly impact society and the environment, especially in developing regions, because of various factors such as deficiency of funds and/or resources or lack of precautionary planning (Mata-Lima, Alvino-Borba, Pinheiro, Mata-Lima, & Almeida, 2013). Extreme rainfall, flooding, and socio-economic and environmental issues are all interrelated and have a cause-effect relationship. Massive amounts of precipitation lead to flooding, which then impacts the environment and humankind. This can be a treacherous domino effect, and cities across Germany, such as Rhine-Ruhr, and other parts of Europe had to experience this recently.


Moore, T. (2016, January 04). Here’s What Caused the Deadly Floods in Germany and France. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from

Deutsche Welle. (n.d.). Flooding in France, Germany expected to worsen | News | DW.COM | 02.06.2016. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

The Local. (2016, June 1). Lower Bavaria district declares flood “disaster”. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

National Geographic. (2012, October 09). Flood. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from

Mata-Lima, H., Alvino-Borba, A., Pinheiro, A., Mata-Lima, A., & Almeida, J. (2013). Impacts of natural disasters on environmental and socio-economic systems: what makes the difference? SciELO Brazil, 16. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from