Archive for March, 2018

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Cole Jermyn makes this connection in New York City. This current event was reported in Metro, on January 24th, 2018, under the title, Guards around NYC’s trees help sewers handle storms: Study, by Kristin Toussaint. This article is likely true, based on a blog post on the same topic by researchers at Columbia University, found at here.

The news relates to WRE in the areas of stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows. The researchers at Columbia found that when sidewalk trees have guards placed around them, the surrounding soil is less likely to be compacted by pedestrians walking across it, allowing stormwater runoff to infiltrate into the soil at a rate six time greater than trees without guards. Multiplied over the 680,000 sidewalk trees in New York City, this adds up to over 1 billion gallons of water diverted from the sewers, decreasing the runoff into the combined sewer system, in turn decreasing the chance of overflow events throughout the year. This is important to WRE because it is a relatively cheap and simple addition that significantly increases the effectiveness of urban trees. One thing I believe the article did miss was information on the cost of the tree guards, as this is the main limiting factor to implementing them on sidewalk trees across the city.

Figure 1. A typical guard around a sidewalk tree, NYC. Photo: Rob Elliot, Columbia University

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are all of interest when it comes to tree guards in New York City, in regard to their implementation and their effects. The economics of their cost and installation limit their use, while the deferred costs of their environmental services are often not understood. They benefit the environment by allowing a more natural, uncompact soil strata and more free groundwater flow, and less sewage discharge to the environment. They also benefit society by decreasing sewage overflows, which introduce dangerous bacteria such as E. Coli and other to the aquatic environment. I also found that these societal impacts were reported by Fong et. al. (2009) on the lower Grand River in Michigan, where the waters may not be suitable for recreation due to the concentrations of adenoviruses from combined sewage overflows. When these overflows take place, viruses are introduced to the aquatic environment where they are not normally present, which is damaging to the local species as well as humans utilizing the waters for recreation and drinking.


Fong T-T, Phanikumar MS, Xagoraraki I, Rose JB. Quantitative Detection of Human Adenoviruses in Wastewater and Combined Sewer Overflows Influencing a Michigan River. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2009;76(3):715-723. doi:10.1128/aem.01316-09.

So Much Depends on a Tree Guard. State of the Planet. Published January 23, 2018. Accessed February 18, 2018.

Toussaint K. Guards around NYC’s trees help sewers handle storms: Study. Metro US. Published January 24, 2018. Accessed February 18, 2018.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student David Loewen makes this connection in Bogota, Colombia. This current event was reported in BN Americas, on Monday, February 9, 2015 under the title ‘SPOTLIGHT: El Salitre wastewater treatment plant’, by Christian Molinari. Upon further investigation, there is additional info on the expansion of the El Salitre Wastewater plant online, found at This is evidently a real project, and not some media fabrication.

This issue is an example of wastewater engineering and is very important news for the WRE community. Colombia has been historically plagued by pollution problems. With these new improvements to the El Salitre wastewater treatment plant, the plant will be able to double the average flow it can treat from 4 cubic meters per second (cms) to 8 cms. Additionally, it will be upgraded from treating 40% organic material and 60% suspended solids to 80% overall treatment. The water being treated will flow into the heavily contaminated Bogota river basin. With this treatment, it’s expected that the water will be suitable for agricultural use (Molinari 2018).

Figure 1- Aerated grit chamber- one of the first processes taking place at the treatment plant

Figure 2- A digested gas holder to hold the gas produced by biodigesters

In Colombia’s society, many people are poor. The poor are mostly farmers or peasants that don’t have much and can’t do much to improve their own lives. This is an instance in which a change made by the government will have an immediate impact to help peoples’ lives. This isn’t an issue of the liberal or conservative officials opposing each other and one side winning out. The construction on this water treatment plant began in April of 2017 and is expected to be completed by 2021 (Molinari 2018). Cleaner water is a benefit to Bogota and the greater area of Colombia environmentally, societally, and economically. First, cleaning water is a direct environmental benefit. Clean wastewater won’t carry pollutants further into the environment. This clean water can also be used for farming, which will give these Colombians a means to earn a living. Cleaner water also correlates to less disease, which would then correlate to more healthy people, less people in the hospital, more workers available for the society, and less family’s torn apart by untimely disease and death due to pollution. In the journal Agronomia Colombiana, a paper was written that explained that heating and drying the biosolids removed from the wastewater at the plant made them useful for fertilizers, and that they were within EPA guidelines (Giraldo et. Al., 2006). It’s much better for the environment to be using fertilizers that are within EPA limits. If wastewater isn’t treated, pollutants are added directly to the environment. If it is treated, the pollutants avoid the environment and the environment can grow unperturbed by harmful elements. It is an obvious correlation.


Giraldo O, Lonzo de Yuna A. Efecto del secado de los biosólidos de la planta de tratamiento de aguas residuales El Salitre (Bogotá) sobre su contenido de nutrientes, metales pesados y patógenos. Agronomia Colombiana. 2006;24(2):348-354. Accessed March 17, 2018.

Molinari. SPOTLIGHT: El Salitre wastewater treatment plant. BNamericas. Published February 9, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2018.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Alex Healy makes this connection in Sāo Paolo. This current event was reported in The Guardian, on November 28th, 2017, under the title, The Amazon effect: how deforestation is starving São Paulo of water”, by Jonathan Watts. The topic of this article was also previously reported on by Jon Gerberg in the reputable TIME Magazine.

Figure 1. Pontoons on the bottom of the dried out Cantareira Reservoir, February 12th, 2015.

Figure 2. Water that is available is currently too contaminated to use. Illegally constructed slums surround Billings reservoir.

The largest city in the Western and Southern hemisphere has growing concerns on an all-too familiar topic. A possible water crisis that could potentially be worse than the one suffered in 2014-15, where reservoirs were down the 5% their normal levels, weighs heavily on the mind of the city and their officials. This topic is heavily dependant on the work of water resources engineering, specifically water distribution and water demand forecasting. Getting water from multiple reservoirs and rivers to millions of people is obviously a task of water distribution, and demand outlook had a part in the Sāo Paolo drought as well. The stationary series statistical method yielded the ‘14-’15 water crisis as a once in a 250 year occurrence, with it being twice as bad as predicted. Luckily, the drought made officials realize they must “prepare for the unknown”. The effects that deforestation have on rainfall and how it gets to reservoirs is also a matter of hydrology. This is important news in the field of WRE because the basic water problems of Sāo Paolo are faced by many places in the world, in addition to the likelihood of this happening many times in many cities in the future. Information on the lasting damages of Amazonian deforestation on water supply would have been a useful addition to this article. For example, if rainforest were to be replanted, how long would it take for the full effect of the hydrological cycle to be restored? Or is the deforestation irreparable?

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are important aspects of Sāo Paolo’s water situation because they will shape how this issue is or is not handled in the future. These three areas have the potential to help or hinder the people of Sāo Paolo be prepared for a drought in the future. This event heavily relates to economic issues. The suspected cause of the epic 14’-15’ drought was deforestation. As much as city officials and environmentalists would like this to stop, it is backed by an enormously powerful agricultural and hydropower lobby, which clear the forests for farms and to flood, respectively. In addition, businesses that are heavy consumers are given discounts to dissuade them from getting their own source or buying from competitors. It’s a tale that’s old as time: the desire for money getting in the way of the environment and the common good. Maybe some will see reason and take all steps possible to conserve water and resources. However, some are doubtful. “It’s possible to improve by investing in forests and water treatment, but that’s not happening,” said Malu Ribeiro of the conservation movement, SOS Mata Atlantica. “So of course this [kind of drought] will happen again. The city is still growing. There is more deforestation. We have learned little or nothing from the crisis.” This is obviously an environmental issue too. In addition to millions of acres of rainforest being destroyed and less rainfall in Southeast Brazil, water isn’t only needed by humans. Everytime a reservoir dries up or is polluted, aquatic organisms living in it die and animals depending on it as a source of water must migrate or die. Diverting water from other sources if a drought happens in the future will also put a strain on that body of water. This event relates to societal issues because water is a basic human right. Cities outside the metropolitan area experienced “states of calamity”: people breaking into properties to steal water, military intervention and protests all took place. A back-up control center was even established to keep the city officials’ base of operations a secret from potential mobs. If people aren’t given water, there will be issues debatably more immediate and severe than the other two problems. Therefore, all measures to prevent this from becoming a severe social issue must be taken. Researchers Salati and Vose (1984) warned that extensive deforestation would upset the “water-recycling regime” and ultimately lead to lower precipitation in the Amazon basin. Many suggest that not heeding this environmental advice has a direct cause-effect relationship on the drought in Sāo Paolo.


Watts J. The Amazon effect: how deforestation is starving São Paulo of water. The Guardian.

Published November 28, 2017. Accessed March 4, 2018.

Gerberg J. São Paulo: A Megacity Without Water. Time. Published October 13, 2015. Accessed March 7, 2018

Salati E, Vose PB. Amazon Basin: A System in Equilibrium. Science. 1984;225(4658):129-138.

Accessed March 8, 2018.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Madelyn Grun makes this connection in Chongqing, China. This current event was reported in Business Insider, on November 10, 2017, under the title, “China is Building 30 ‘Sponge Cities’ That Aim To Soak Up Flood-water and Prevent Disaster”, by Leanna Garfield. This is likely real news, based on an independent analysis on this current event in June 2017 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at here.

Figure 1- This image was taken during a flood in Chongqing in June 2015. This exemplifies the extreme damages caused by floods.

Figure 2- This image shows the landscape of an ideal “Sponge City” in Chongqing’s eco-district. The strategic swales and impervious surfaces will help reduce stormwater runoff.

Designing resilient infrastructure is an integral part WRE. In urban cities, such as Chongqing, China, the rapidly growing population makes it increasingly challenging to control stormwater runoff. The effects of urbanization and climate change have caused many cities in China to experience more frequent and destructive storms. Dangerous flooding has become a frequent occurrence in Chongqing (Figure 1). This has lead to creative hydrologic solutions in the area of stormwater management. For WRE, it is critical to design an efficient system that also ensures the safety of the community. Chongqing is one of many cities to support an initiative to become a “Sponge City,” which is a city that has incorporated permeable surfaces and green infrastructure to “soak up” the rainwater and reduce flooding (Figure 2). The project in Chongqing will utilize a new digital model called AQUADVANCD Urban Drainage to monitor sewer and stormwater networks. According to the article, by 2020, up to 80% of stormwater will be absorbed and collected. In my critique of this article, important information is missing on how this digital model predicts flooding and how well the prediction process works.

The flooding in Chongqing impacts economic, environmental, and societal issues. The massive costs of implementing new permeable surfaces and infrastructure is a burden on both the central and local governments. According to the article, the central government plans to fund 15% of the project in Chongqing, and the rest falls to the responsibility of the local government. A better system to control stormwater can reduce the damage costs of flooding. The urbanization of the city has greatly affected the environment, causing increased erosion. By building more green infrastructure in the city, some of the flooding will be offset, and remaining ecosystems can be protected. The main societal issue of safety may be the most important impact of the stormwater floods. Converting Chongqing into a sponge city would make it a safer place to live by preventing or reducing these floods. In Berlin, Germany, similar infrastructure has already been implemented, and has successfully reduced excessive stormwater runoff ( According to this article, the city has improved its modeling system to account for climate change. If Chongqing can follow this same pattern to improve their WRE models and maintain the funds for construction, then I think that their new Sponge-city will be a huge success.


Garfield L. China is building 30 ‘sponge cities’ that aim to soak up floodwater and prevent disaster. Business Insider.

Cai H. Decoding Sponge City in Shenzhen: Resilience Program or Growth Policy? 

( DW. Sponge City: Berlin plans for a hotter climate | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 22.07.2016. DW.COM.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Jeremy Hatfield makes this connection in Osaka, Japan. This current event was reported in Japan Today on Oct. 31, 2013, under the title, “Osaka Estimates 133,000 Could Die if Quake hits Nankai Trough,” by Japan Today1. Provided several documents and outlines such as the Financial Times’ “The Next Big Quake,” article2, as well as Tokyo’s “Waterworks’ Earthquake Countermeasures” strategic plan written by the Japanese government itself3, it is very likely the threat of a massive earthquake is impending.

Figure 1 – Pacific Rift Threatening Japan’s Coasts

The effects of an earthquake on such a densely populated city such as Osaka would not only have immediate, destructive effects on the water and wastewater infrastructure within the city, but flooding would create an even greater effect on local groundwater table. Spills likely caused by disaster and then spread quickly over the surface can provide harmful effects to water supplies once chemicals and other contaminants are given a chance to infiltrate.4 Additionally, it is predicted that given a strong enough tsunami, the levees protecting the city might be destroyed, causing even more flood destruction. Given an earthquake with no preventative measures, older, less malleable distribution lines will give way and crack, leaving clean water distribution handicapped. What the article doesn’t mention, however, are the preventative measures taking place to prevent such tragedy3. As of 2015, projects have been carried out to retrofit water treatment plants and distribution systems in case of high magnitude earthquakes.

Figure 2 – Earthquake effects on Osaka’s Infrastructure

When it comes to societal, economic, and environmental impacts, Earthquakes supply it all. Much of the destruction caused by an earthquake comes in the economic form. As suggested by the Financial Times article2, the estimated cost of a Nankai Rim earthquake is around $2.06 Trillion U.S2. Unfortunately, the damage caused by earthquakes is often irreparable, as it usually ends in a loss of life. As suggested in the original article, if disaster struck, the even assuming their initial fatality estimate is off by several thousand, the amount of life lost is immense. Not to mention the number of individuals left without a home or financial security. As mentioned previously, the impacts of an earthquake and its consequential flooding would devastate the local environment. As an area floods, anything and everything, contaminants included, get picked up with the deluge ultimately spreading potentially harmful substances to the groundwater table below. The local wildlife and fauna would suffer as the quality of their drinking supply deteriorates. While the threat of an Earthquake is a frightening concept for individuals of Japan, engineers and other problem solvers have set out to prevent disaster at all costs. It is because of each of these potential issues that Japan has instituted newer fittings, shear resistant qualities to their levees, reservoirs, and distribution systems.


1. Osaka estimates 133,000 could die if quake hits Nankai Trough. Japan Today. Published October 30, 2013. Accessed February 24, 2018.

2.Harding R, Bernard S. Japan: The Next Big Quake. Financial Times. Published May 17, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2018.

3.Mochizuki K. Tokyo Waterworks’ Earthquake Countermeasures. Tokyo; 2014.

4.Sun R, Wang Q. Impacts of a Flash Flood on Drinking Water Quality. PMC. Published February 2, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2018.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Evan Genay makes this connection in Wuhan, China. This current event was reported in Radio Free Asia, on April 4 2014, under the title “China’s Wuhan Hit by Drinking Water Pollution Scare,” by Yang Fan (translated by Luisetta Mudie). This story was also documented in the South China Morning Post,, and China Daily; which speaks to the validity of the story, especially because it is critical of the infrastructure in a nation with state-controlled media.

The story involves a major pollution event that resulted in the termination of water supply to a major segment of the population of the Wuhan megacity (Fan, 2014). This story is relevant to water resources engineering because it delves into the fields of water and wastewater treatment; if the water treatment plant in Wuhan had been adequate or the factories had proper wastewater treatment, this incident could have been prevented. This is important because developing nations like China that are rapidly industrializing are undergoing the same infrastructure issues related to water distribution and industrial pollution that plagued the United States during the 20th century (e.g. Love Canal, Onondaga Lake).

Figure 1: A woman in Wuhan China purchases bottled water in response to water supply issue

Figure 2: The Han River in Wuhan, China underwent significant quality issues in April 2014

Figure 3: A tweet highlighting the water quality issues in Wuhan

These water quality issues in Wuhan are related to the economic shift in China to an industrial economy. As this happens, the negative externalities associated with industry are passed along to the residents, who are forced to pay for bottled water (Figure 1), which can be too expensive for some (Fan, 2014). In addition to the economic impact, the water quality issues have significant environmental issues. Massive fish mortality events can result from pollutants in the water (Figure 2) (Chen, 2014). In addition, the water pollution issues have societal impacts. Those who utilize the public water system must live in fear of not being able to obtain clean water. Polluted water can have deleterious effects on public health, and lack of water can result in civil unrest. The effects of water pollution in China are seen outside of Wuhan. In a report by Wu et al., published in Environmental Health Perspectives there are approximately 700 million people in China that consume water that is unfit for consumption (Wu, 1999). This pollution is the result of a fragmented system of environmental regulations that hurts the distribution of water resources. The cause-effect relationship between increasing industrialization without environmental regulation or water resource management and increased water pollution is readily apparent.


Chen, S. Thousands in Wuhan see taps shit for a day amid ‘stinky water’ contamination. South China Morning Post.

Fan, Y. Translated by Mudie, L. China’s Wuhan hit by drinking water pollution scare. Radio Free Asia. 4 Apr 2014.

Kun, L. Wuhan water plants cleared to reopen after water quality failure. China Daily. 25 Apr 2014.

Wu C, Maurer C, Wang Y, Xue S, Davis DL. Water pollution and human health in China. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1999;107(4):251-256.

Xinhua, Y. Polluted water affects 300,000 people in Wuhan. 24 Apr 2014.

Water resources engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our student David Friedman makes this connection in Lahore, Pakistan.  This current event was reported in ‘The Citizen,’ on January 8, 2018, under the title “Poisonous and running out: Pakistan’s water crisis,” by reporter Joris Fioriti.  According to the article, the people of Lahore, Pakistan have faced severe issues with their drinking water supply for many years.  Each year, an average of 53,000 children in this region die from diarrhoea after consuming highly contaminated drinking water1.  In Lahore, locals receive their drinking water from the Ravi River, which serves as a spillway site for hundreds of factories 1.  Along with water quality and contamination, the supply is a concern as their severe water scarcity is rapidly increasing 1.  The surface of the ground water table continues be found lower and lower in depth overtime.  The water pumps are collecting water that is continuously higher in arsenic content, which increases with depth 1.  This crisis presents danger to not only the current population of about 9.5 million in Lahore, but also to their future population which is expected to continue grow in upcoming years 1.  This prediction is likely valid because of a chart on that lists the population size and growth among every 5 years since 1950 in Lahore population 2.  The data predicts that the population in Lahore is expected to grow to approximately 11.5 million by the year 2025 2.  The estimated and predicted populations for each year from this chart were plotted on a graph seen below in Figure 1 2.

Figure 1. Time series plot of the estimated and predicted population by year in Lahore, Pakistan.2

This water crisis relates to water resources engineering, as it concerns the public distribution of drinking water with respect to a growing population size.  Supply and demand is an important factor in water resources engineering and in design.  The article reports that there are not enough water treatment plants in the region. However, the article does not specifically identify what is ineffective with these few plants1.  For instance, there is no specific number specified on how many are implemented here nor any calculation identifying how many plants should be present based on the maximum or minimum daily consumption rate of the population.  A common source of contamination is from the material that the water distribution pipelines are constructed from.  Pipelines must be made from materials that can withstand high maximum daily flow rates without corrosion or decay.  There is nothing stated in the article about what type of material is used in the distribution pipes in Pakistan.

The polluted water crisis in Lahore concerns not only public health, but also poses threats to the economic, environmental, and societal state of the city.  An estimated 90% of their water supply is used for their agriculture, which primarily involves harvest of water-intensive crops such as rice and sugar cane 1.  The decline of their water sources continues to deteriorate the quality of their crop yield, which is expected to slow the economic activity of their agricultural industries.  This turmoil has caused environmental impacts as well.  Local Ahmed Rafay Alam claims, “those who can afford it buy bottles of water” 1.  Although a limited portion of the population can afford bottled water, those who can seem to rely on it more than on their public drinking water sources.  This consumption and production of bottled water is responsible for additional carbon dioxide emissions and excessive oil consumption among the environment of Lahore.  This crisis has also caused a widespread disconnect between society and the political authority in Lahore.  Locals believe their declining water supply is a result of a “lack of political vision” 1.  The government of Pakistan appears to have neglected taking the proper effort to legally prohibit the factories from dumping their waste into the Ravi River or to better regulate the agricultural industries in advising them to conserve their clean water supply for consumption rather than for their harvests.  The cause-effect relationship between the expected population growth and the malpractices in the drinking water distribution in Lahore, Pakistan demonstrates the importance of having proper governmental regulations on water distribution established in a city.  Without these laws and designs implemented, the people will continue to contract diseases from their water, which will be spread to more and more people as the population grows.


1. Fioriti J. Poisonous and running out: Pakistan’s water crisis. The Citizen. Published January 8, 2018. Accessed February 25, 2018.

2. Lahore Population 2018. Worldpopulationreview. Published October 20, 2017. Accessed February 26, 2018.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Alexander Hess makes this connection in Cairo, Egypt. This current event was reported in Arab News, on February 23, 2018, under the title, Egypt determined to avoid water supply ‘Day Zero’, by Abdellatif El-Menawy. An additional article published by the Yale University Department of Environmental Studies, titled, The Vanishing Nile: A Great River Faces a Multitude of Threats, was published on April 6, 2017 by Richard Conniff. This additional article adds strength to the first article that this current event related to water resources is accurate and is not biased by fake news.

This current event about the water supply in Cairo and the dam on the Nile River relates to water resources engineering in a variety of areas, the main discipline that it focuses in it the domestic drinking water supply category. This current event also relates to dam construction and how it can change the flow of bodies of water, it is also important to note that the overall health of the river is a big factor. This is important news for the water resources engineering community because Cairo is at risk to loss a large supply of their drinking water due to the fact that Ethiopia is planning to build a hydro-power dam on the Nile River, which is Cairo’s main source of drinking water (El-Menawy, 2018). Cairo needs to avoid the risk of reaching ‘Day Zero’, which is when the water supply for the city would completely run dry, which is currently the situation in Cape Town, South Africa (El-Menawy, 2018). I feel that this article lacks the information about how much water is used from the Nile River in Cairo each day and talk about the alternate water sources if the dam is actually built to its designed capacity.

Figure 1. Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Figure 2. Map showing the distance between Cairo and the site of the dam

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are the three main factors that can be used to define the sustainability and success of water supply situation that is currently happening in Cairo, Egypt. These issues are crucial in the world of water resources engineering because water is the essential resource of life, so sustaining water supply is worth fighting for. This current event plays a huge role on economic issues in Ethiopia because they have committed nearly $5 billion to the development and construction of the hydro-power dam, known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, this is so they can supply 6,000 megawatts of power to their citizens who nearly three-quarters currently lack electricity access (Conniff, 2017). It also has a big role on economic issues for the people of Cairo since they will need to find new water supply sources and build new infrastructure if the dam project is completed to its maximum design capacity. The environmental issues associated with this current event are nearly endless, with the most important being the loss of water in the Nile River which will not only causes issues with water supply in Cairo and the rest of Egypt, but place stress on aquatic life (Conniff, 2017). The Nile River is a very diverse water body, so a loss of water and addition of infrastructure will only damage the environmental surrounding the Nile River. Societal issues are always bound to occur when current events take place, this is no expectation, the main issue is that 95 million in Egypt and more especially roughly 50 million people within the area of Cairo depend on the Nile River for their water supply (Conniff, 2017). This could cause a huge sequence of events that could lead to longer term turmoil or even war over water in the future in Cairo. A journal published in Egypt, found that water shortages have a big effect on the agriculture industry causing societal issues with the large populations that need the water for public drinking water instead of using it for irrigation (Brooks, 2013). The cause-effect between water shortage and societal impacts occurring when the water supply becomes diminished and the war over water occurs for who needs water more, the citizens or farmers to supply more food.


Brooks K, Ward F, Gohar A. Mitigating impacts of water shortage on Egyptian agriculture: a
catchment scale analysis. Water Policy. 2013;15(5):738. doi:10.2166/wp.2013.091.
Accessed February 24, 2018.

Conniff R. The Vanishing Nile: A Great River Faces a Multitude of Threats. Yale E360. Published April 6, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2018.

El-Menawy A. Egypt determined to avoid water supply ‘Day Zero’. Arab News. Published February 23, 2018. Accessed February 24, 2018.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Timothy Eychner makes this connection in Beijing, China. This current event was reported in by EOS Earth and Space Science News, on 25 October 2017, under the title, “Modeling Beijing Water Crisis”, by Elizabeth Thompson. This current event is not fake news, based on the independent report of the north-south water diversion project reported by The Digital Journal.

This current event relates to WRE since it deals with groundwater management and water distribution. A channel is being built to divert water from the Yangtze River in southern China to Beijing. Building this channel involves an extensive knowledge of water hydrology, and numerous disciplines of engineering will be involved. Also, groundwater in Beijing is getting consumed faster than it is replenishing itself. Beijing engineers will need to find alternative resources to meet the city’s water demands. This news is important for WRE due to the fact that water resources engineers will be heavily involved with the modeling and design process to minimize this current water crisis in Beijing. The current event article does a good job of bringing light to the water crisis occurring in Beijing, but it is solely focused on the groundwater resource for Beijing. Cities do not get their water supply solely from groundwater storage. There are numerous water sources that a city can pull from; reservoirs, rivers, and lakes are other commonly used sources. The article should explain why Beijing’s river, lake, and reservoir water sources are running low on water as well.

Figure 1: Citizens in Beijing forced to live with extreme sub-standard amounts of water.

There are many economic, environmental, and societal issues that accompany this water crisis. Building a large channel to carry water from southern China to Beijing will come with great cost and environmental impacts. This channel will have to be funded somehow, and it will leave a large and lasting footprint on the local environment. Persons within the city of Beijing are forced to live with 1/10 of the water that is considered sufficient for people to be able to live with. This water scarcity will cause societal and political changes, not just within Beijing, but for all of China. The University of Nottingham has published a peer reviewed article regarding the political and social challenges that will follow the water crisis. This article explains that the limited water issue is forcing middle class citizens to move out of Beijing, and the ones that stay are dramatically forced to change their standards of living. The article further explains, that depending on the outcome of the water crisis, citizen confidence in China’s main political party, that is nested in Beijing, will either be diminished or improved.


Modeling Beijing’s Water Crisis. Eos. Published October 25, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2018.

Solving Chinas water scarcity problem wont be easy. Digital Journal: A Global Digital Media Network. Published December 28, 2014. Accessed February 25, 2018.

Iapsdialogue. Social and Political Challenges of Beijing’s Water Crisis. IAPS Dialogue: The online magazine of the Institute of Asia & Pacific Studies. Published December 13, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2018.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Anna Curtin, makes this connection in Jakarta, Indonesia. This current event was reported in the NY Times, on December 21 2017, under the title, “Jakarta is Sinking so Fast, it could End up Underwater” by Michael Kimmelman. The article is published by a reputable news source suggesting it is likely real news. The article also cites credible scholars in the field such as, JanJaap Brinkman, a hydrologist for the Dutch water research institute Deltrares, and cites research by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations that corroborates the included information (Bakker et al. 2017). I also read a separate article containing similar information to that of the NY Times article, titled, “Will Jakarta be the next Atlantis? Excessive groundwater use resulting from a failing piped water network” by Nicola Colbran. The article by Nicola Colbran was included in the peer reviewed journal, Law Environment and Development Journal, and was cited in eight other published articles, further suggesting the NY Times article consisted of real news.

Figure 1. Rate of sinking of areas within Jakarta (red is more than 2 inches per year and yellow is less than 2 inches per year). The gray area represents the extent of city infrastructure, which has increased over the years, increasing the weight on the land, which increases sinking. Data from Irwan Gumilar of Geodesy Research Group of ITB (Kimmelman 2017).

Figure 2: An area flooded by water as the city sinks and sea level rises (Kimmelman 2017).

The article discusses how two relevant WRE topics, inadequately designed water distribution systems and insufficient sewer systems, have caused Jakarta to continually sink below sea level at a rapid rate. Due to corrupt political leaders that historically provided piped water and other services only to elite and politically favored groups, Jakarta has been plagued by inadequate water distribution systems and insufficient sewer systems. This has caused about 80% of the population to turn to alternative water sources, especially illegally drilled groundwater wells, for not only household needs, but also business and industry needs (Colbran 2009). Additionally, water sources became extremely polluted as sewer and garbage were disposed of in the water. Recently, the city has also focused on increasing infrastructure and industry, covering about 97% of the land with concrete, which has destroyed vital natural draining sites leading to decreased groundwater refill and increased flooding (Kimmelman 2017)). Excessive groundwater extraction and insufficient refill has left vacuums underground that either get contaminated by pollution or salinization or collapse under the pressure of overly heavy infrastructure, causing the city to sink.  In Jakarta, sinking poses a greater risk to the city than sea level rise due to climate change, which puts the risk in perspective since Indonesia is an island (Colbran 2009). Ultimately, the case of Jakarta provides an extreme, but true, scenario which proves the importance of planning adequate sewer and water distribution systems. Unfortunately, Jakarta is not the only city where this is occurring; the author cites Mexico City as another example of a city sinking due to groundwater extraction (Kimmelman 2017). The article could be benefitted from the inclusion of more data or measurements on the topic, however, it explains that many sources of data provide bias information making raw data hard to acquire.

Figure 3. Three screenshots taken from Twitter referencing Jakarta sinking.

Based on the abuses that occurred during the development of the megacity, Jakarta, it is clear that economic, environmental, and societal issues are important in this area. This article and other articles cite that it would cost billions upon billions of dollars to address the sinking city, water quality and distribution, and sewer systems (Kimmelman 2017, Colbran 2009). In the past, solutions have been created, but implementation and enforcement were inadequate, allowing the problems to continue to worsen (Colbran 2009). Although fixing the problem would be expensive, ignoring the problem will be equally, if not more expensive. Businesses, industry, and infrastructure are already being damaged or destroyed. Due to a lack of water distribution and sewers, the rivers and groundwater are also being continually polluted by a combination of industry, waste dumping, and salt water intrusion, which destroys ecosystems, spreads water-bourne diseases, and further encourages deep groundwater well drilling. Additionally, concern about the sinking of Jakarta has caused societal prejudices and scapegoats to determine courses of action. For example, the government chooses to blame the poor for polluting the water and taking up green spaces, leading to mass evictions and displacement of poor people living along the water. The article also explains that a past non-Muslim governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was attempting to address some of the problems Jakarta faced was removed from office based on religious prejudices (Kimmelman 2017). More information about each of these concerns can be found in detail in Nicola Colbran’s article (2009). The cause-effect relationship between insufficient sewer systems and water distribution systems and sinking of Jakarta are clear, but the solutions to the many problems Jakarta faces are not.


Bakker M, S. Kishimoto, and C. Nooy. Social justice at bay: The Dutch role in Jakart’s coastal defence and land reclamation. Somo. Apr 2017. ISBN 978-94-6207-115-5.

Colbran N. Will Jakarta be the next Atlantis? Excessive groundwater use resulting from a failing piped water network. Law Environment Development Journal. 2009;5/1: 20-37.

Kimmelman M. Jakarta is sinking so fast, it could end up underwater. NY Times. Dec 21, 2017.