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.