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.

 

References:

BBC. (2011). Japan says quake rebuilding to cost as much as 25tn yen. Retrieved from (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-12828181)

Foster, P. (2011). Japan earthquake: country better prepared than anyone for quakes and tsunamis. The Telegraph. Retrieved from (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8375591/Japan-earthquake-country-better-prepared-than-anyone-for-quakes-and-tsunamis.html)

Japan Times. (2014). Quake will cut water to 94% of Osaka. Retrieved from (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/24/national/quake-will-cut-water-to-94-of-osaka/#.WNVIbPkrJPY)

 GESAP. (2008) Water Supply System in Osaka, Japan: Earthquake Preparedness. Retrieved from (http://nett21.gec.jp/GESAP/themes/themes5_5.html)

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 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0022-4146.2005.00365.x/epdf)

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