Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Ryan Ruggiero makes this connection in Shenzhen. This current event was reported in The Diplomat, on September 16th, 2015, under the title, One Chinese City’s Struggle With Water Scarcity, by Coco Liu. If you don’t believe me or Coco Liu, check out this article, Water Pollution and Degradation in Pearl River Delta, South China, published in the Journal of the Human Environment, know as AMBIO. This article is a review of the water pollution and degradation of the Pearl River delta, which encompasses Shenzhen. The issue being discussed in the news article is water scarcity, which is considered and examined in this article as ‘degradation volume’ pollution.

This article reviews the current solutions to the water scarcity/water pollution issues that Shenzhen is facing along with what the city hopes to implement in the future to improve the situation further. The city has taken action to install green infrastructure and practice overall good water resource management methods to help with the issue at hand, water scarcity. Water scarcity in Shenzhen is currently being solved by importing water/diverting a river, both being energy, environmentally and economically taxing. The reuse of the cities gray and wastewater into a usable, reclaimed gray water is a step in the right direction with respect to capture of the resource that would otherwise be discharged to the many waterways passing through the city. The main green infrastructure the city is currently taking advantage of is pours land cover types, including pours pavement, rain gardens (with flood tolerant vegetation) and wetlands. Most of the areas with these land cover types are bounded below by catchment structures that allow for the storage and usage of what would otherwise be surface discharge and originally subsurface discharge into the polluted waterways of the city. Capture at a point in the hydrologic cycle ‘upstream’ from stream flow reduces the work required in obtaining usable water for the city, even with the infrastructure required for the large underground basins and surface cover materials (Liu, 2015). The city has also given citizens incentives to use less water by increasing prices when a usage threshold is exceeded (Liu, 2015). This article clearly expresses the issues Shenzhen, and more likely than not, other mega and non-mega cities either currently or in the future will face with the increasing stress climate change puts on ever growing urban development. The measures taken in Shenzhen could be used in other developing or current cities to prevent the water scarcity problem/remedy an existing issue, respectively. This article however lacks the numerical information with respect to the improvement of water reclamation green infrastructure is able to provide during the cities wet season, which up until their installment, precipitation has gone directly into the cities polluted waterways. This would of given some insight to the effectiveness of the cities efforts, which in the past have been lavish yet to no avail (Huifeng, 2014).

This article takes consideration to all three facets of WRE issues—it is important to address these issues in any modern city. Shenzhen is a large metropolis that must be mindful of environmental impacts resulting from urbanization, which will ultimately benefit the cities intrinsic goals to be both economically and socially feasible. The environmental issue regarding Shenzhen’s water scarcity is closely related to climate change and pollution of the rivers: droughts cause waterways to become seasonal, while established waterways are some of the dirtiest in Southern China (Huifeng, 2014). One solution, that currently provides water for 70% of the city, is the diversion of the Dongjiang River. The river north of the city is diverted into 17 tunnels and pumped up to storage tanks; elevation wise, it is kept above the city, where it is treated and divided among its citizens. The economic issue in relation to Shenzhen’s water scarcity is the energy requirement for the pumps that the diversion project depends on. The providences power company stated that the diversion project was one of the major energy consumers that they supply (Liu, 2015). The providence’s provider uses coal to generate the electricity it provides, contributing to the economic and additional environmental burden this issue it puts on the city (Liu, 2015 and Zhou, 2014). To combat the cities dependence on the diversion project, the city is starting to require the recycling of gray and wastewater. Overcoming the idea of using the reused water poses a vast societal issue for the city, where the fear of improper separation from the drinking water supply is overbearing for many. Zhou in 2014 showed that water pumping was one of the major players in Shenzhen’s energy consumption while also outlining the indirect environmental degradation as a result of the pumping requirements. The study is concerned with planning and managing the cities energy generation and usage, which if executed properly would benefit the economic and social issues as well.

Figure 1. Shenzhen River depicted here at one its most polluted States

Shenzhen is a growing city that has pollution based water scarcity issue because of its metropolis existence. Without remedy of the natural waterways, which are of extremely low quality, the issues with relation to water scarcity may be resolved, but not without compromise to the social and economic issues that are rooted in the scarcity issue. This is why it is so important to resolve the underlying environmental problem because usually it is a cause of a multitude of issues. WRE encompasses the 3 aspects it does because it makes sense to take all 3 into consideration when designing and managing a solution to the original problem. By Shenzhen solving its water scarcity issue with only the diverting the Dongjiang River, economically this burden would become an issue for the city, not to mention any social issues that might arise when the Dongjiang is unable to supply its original users and the megacity.

Huifeng, H. (2014, September 19). Shenzhen is losing its fight against pollution in main rivers. Received April 17, 2017.

Zhou, Y., Li, Y., & Huang, G. (2014). Integrated modeling approach for sustainable             municipal energy system planning and management – A case study of  Shenzhen, China.Journal of Cleaner Production,75, 143-156.

Liu, C. (2015, September 16). One Chinese City’s Struggle With Water Scarcity. Retrieved April 17, 2017.

Z. Zhu, Q. Deng, H. Zhou, T. Ouyang. (2002). Water Pollution and Degradation in                              Pearl River Delta, South China. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 31(3), 226-230.