Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Ben Taylor makes this connection in London, United Kingdom. This current event was reported in The Guardian, on September 14th, 2016, under the title, “Increased drought could see Londoners queueing for water,” by Fiona Harvey1. This is likely an accurate depiction of a London current issue as Eddie Buckle with Bloomberg reported on this same issue in March of 20162.

London, UK, is in a potentially difficult situation with water distribution, based on their increasing population (see Figure 1.). From the source of the water to the faucet, this is a challenge in WRE. Solutions will have to integrate WRE concepts of pipe networks, flow, scour, and treatment. This is important news for WRE because the potential water shortages in London is evidence that water problems are not bound to developing nations. Many times, we think that water distribution issues or shortage is not a problem in cities or areas that have been “westernized”, but this is not true. We must continue to study and invest in our modern water distribution systems to ensure public health and wellness. This report in The Guardian doesn’t address personal responsibility that Londoners should feel in the water saving efforts. It focuses on the actions Thames Water, the private water distributors, but fails to appeal to the reader in how we can help with delaying or avoiding this potential water shortage.

Figure 1. London’s historic and projected population

This potential water shortage problem has effects in the economic, environmental, and social realms of London and the surrounding areas. Water is a center point of human well-being. Financially, a water shortage would be devastating. I would speculate that Parliament would step in and intervene in the processes of Thames Water to update infrastructure and increase the water storage. This will likely cost millions of dollars, which would be passed on to taxpayers. Any disruptions in water service will have impacts on local businesses, and may cause some to move based on concerns. This water shortage also relates to environmental issues. New reservoirs or infrastructure construction would impact the landscape, whether through digging or building. Finally, this WRE issue feeds into societal issues. One of the largest societal issue is the public concern around potential solutions. It has been suggested that treated sewage be reintroduced to the Thames river, and then retreated for drinking3. BBC reports that “many Londoners were unhappy at the idea of drinking waste water3.” Mancosu et al. took a look at water scarcity issues in 2014, in terms of agriculture. They concluded that “The correlation between the expected increase in irrigation water requirements, critical values of renewable freshwater resources and economic water scarcity, indicates the necessity for regional policy coordination and careful water management strategies at the national and site levels4.” This is a clear correlation between water shortage and the effects on society through policy and government. With proper management of the water levels and solutions in London, I am confident that a catastrophe will be avoided and Londoners will continue to live with access to clean water.

Reference

  1. Harvey, Fiona. Increased drought could see Londoners queueing for water. The Guardian. 14 September 2016.
  2. Buckle, Eddie. Growing London Faces Water Shortages and Overflowing Sewage. Bloomberg. 8 March 2016.
  3. London ‘could drink treated sewage’- Thames Water. 10 May 2013.
  4. Mancosu N, Snyder R, Kyriakakis G, Spano D. Water Scarcity and Future Challenges for Food Production. Water 2015, 7, 975-992; doi: 10.3390/w7030975. 10 March 2015.
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