Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Out student Trevor Cornish makes this connection in London, United Kingdom. The current event was reported in BBC World News on February 11, 2018, under the title “The 11 Cities Most Likely to Run Out of Drinking Water – like Cape Town.” The WRE current event is likely accurate and not fake news because Thames Water, the water supplier in London, reports on their website that in developing the next Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP), they are forecasting a water resource deficit in the service territory of London of 400 million liters per day, the volume of water required by two million people. Figure 1 shows the estimated population growth in London by Thames Water. Figure 2 shows a predicted increase in water demand, by water resource zone.

Figure 1: Population forecast in London by Thames Water

Figure 2: Predicted increase in water demand by water resource zone (WRZ) by Thames Water

The current event in London relates to WRE. One WRE sub-discipline this news relates to is water demand forecasting, which is part of design of water-distribution systems. To predict supply problems or shortages, engineers at Thames Water must understand how much water will be used, the demand, based on population and fire flow. This news also mentions that the annual average rainfall of London is only 600 mm, which relates to fundamentals of surface-water hydrology as design of drinking water systems may be based on rainfall. London’s listing as a city that may run out of drinking water is important news for WRE because access to water and sanitation is recognized as a human right by the UN, so water resource engineers in London and the rest of the wrold must work to prevent a water shortage by analyzing available water resources, water loss, and water demand. The reported current event could be improved if more information regarding how the supply problems are predicted was presented. For example, after reading the article, I wondered if the predicted supply problems are mostly caused by population growth, failure of the current water distribution infrastructure, climate change, or a combination of many factors.

Economic, environmental, and societal issue are important in the area of this current event because they shape plans on how to avoid a water shortage in London. The WRE event relates to economic issues because the minimization of cost is always an objective in engineering projects. Thames Water is looking to reduce lost/stolen water by reducing leakage and deploying detectives to stop water theft, which will save money and increase revenue, respectively. Water supply issues in London relate to environmental issues because in some way, water demand must be met. This may mean withdrawing more water from the Thames River in which issues around ecological engineering must be considered. The WRE event relates to societal issues because productivity of society would be hindered if access to clean, safe water was inconvenient, unreliable, or very costly. In the refereed journal article Sensitivity of future U.S. Water shortages to socioeconomic and climate drivers: a case study in Georgia using an integrated human-earth system modeling framework, Scott et. Al discuss the important human-climate relationship surrounding water demand. They make clear that there is a connection between socioeconomic change, climate change, and water demand and supply, respectively. The fact that this aspect of WRE is discussed in a scientific journal gives credibility to the news article about London’s predicted water shortage. The cause-effect relationship between the WRE event and the context area issue is similar in London and many other megacities. The causes are multi-faceted, and include population growth, and crumbling infrastructure that results in more leakage, and climate change that results in fewer water resources available. The effect, as seen in London and other cities, is that water shortages, or even crises, are predicted or experienced.


Human Rights. UN-Water. http://www.unwater.org/water-facts/human-rights/. Accessed February 14, 2018.

Pidgen K. Thames Water consults on water resources management plan. Utility Week. https://utilityweek.co.uk/thames-water-consults-water-resources-management-plan/. Published December 2, 2018. Accessed February 14, 2018.

Plimmer G. Subscribe to the FT to read: Financial Times Thames Water deploys detectives to stop water theft. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/e8cc9670-00f4-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5. Published January 24, 2018. Accessed February 14, 2018.

Scott M, Daly D, Voisin N, et al. Sensitivity of future U.S. Water shortages to socioeconomic and climate drivers: a case study in Georgia using an integrated human-earth system modeling framework. Climatic Change [serial online]. May 15, 2016;136(2):233-246. Available from: Energy & Power Source, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 14, 2018.

The 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water – like Cape Town. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-42982959. Published February 11, 2018. Accessed February 14, 2018.

Water Resources Management Plan – 2019. Thames Water; 2016. https://corporate.thameswater.co.uk/About-us/Our-strategies-and-plans/Water-resources/Developing-our-next-plan—WRMP19. Accessed February 14, 2018.