Archive for April, 2019


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Cody LaFever makes this connection in Wuhan, China. This current event was reported in The Guardian, on Wednesday, January 23, 2019 under the title, “Inside China’s Leading ‘sponge city’: Wuhan’s war with water”, by Li Jing. This is unlikely to be “fake news” as this topic has been previously been covered by an associated environmental engineering firm, Arcadis, and a sprawling city such as Wuhan requires new stormwater infrastructure due to the accelerated urbanization of the city.  The article describes the project as a massive network of small stormwater catch basins, rain gardens, grassy swales, and increasing amount of vegetation.  Achieving proper stormwater mitigation is difficult for dense urban and growing urban areas, with this ‘sponge’ style technique the city can secure the safety of its people, and its future.

This current event relates to water resource engineering because it is one of the largest issues facing many cities across the globe, the consequences we face as we industrialize and urbanize the landscape.  This is important news for the water resources engineering realm because the project focuses on new and underutilized methods of mitigating the negative effects of stormwater in urban settings.  The application of technology was very detailed, however some important information that was missing from the article was in regard to the specifics of the technology used.

Societal, environmental and economic issues dictate key aspects of the sponge city stormwater infrastructure project, government budgeted spending, sustainability, and citizen well-being.  This sponge city stormwater infrastructure project will have positive effects on the cities natural environment, and it is estimated that initiatives of the plan will result in a 70% reduction of pollution carried by runoff areas.  Economically speaking, the project has the potential to prevent significant damage and property loss due to flooding and waterlogging.  The process of implementing many small stormwater mitigation ‘sponges’ is estimated to generate 20,000 new jobs, contributing to a considerable societal impact.  The need and effectiveness for all cities to follow lead and implement ‘sponge’ type micro-systems is an important factor when considering the evident climate change in our future (Sharma, 2014).  The effects of implementing a ‘sponge’ style stormwater system are reducing erosion, sediment transport, and runoff control, while increasing water capture, general city safety, and local aesthetics.  This issue is at the heart of water resource engineering and when addressed properly, acts as a proper advocate for future generations.

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Figure 1: An artistic rendering of how an urban setting can be transformed to include methods of water resource engineering, specifically in stormwater mitigation.

References:

Chin, D. A, (2013), Water Resources Engineering Third Edition, Pearson.

Sharma A, Suri S, (2014). Emerging Need for Incorporating Sustainable Principles in Buildings and Habitat
Design. Sustainable Constructivism. Doi:978-93-83083-76-3

This current event was reported in Global Times, on April 12th, 2017 under the title, Xi’an fingered as among China’s worst-polluted, by Ren Yingying and Shan Jie. In all likeliness we can assume that this headline is true and that the problems present in Xi’an stated in the report are accurate. Xi’an is one of the top ten most polluted cities in the world and is home to a cascade of water and air quality problems. For centuries the city was known for the eight rivers surrounding the area and the abundance of water being supplied from the Qinglin mountains. The home of the Terracotta Army is now plagued by one environmental issue after another. Xi’an, known for its quick industrialization and urbanization, is now facing a fresh water scare and heavy amounts of pollution degrading the water quality throughout the city. Their lack of regulations on mining activities combined with their growing population led to a drastic decrease in water quality.  Water now possesses dangerous levels of chemicals not suited for human use. The large increase in population has greatly decreased the available water coming from the Yellow river and the Yangtze river. With virtually no ground water accessible to the area, the only option for the growing city is to obtain it from other areas in the country (Dong et al., 2019). The city also suffers from high levels of air pollution, thick clouds of smog engulf the city with particles harder than steel floating through the air (“When China Wants Better Air Readings, Cotton Does the Trick – The New York Times,” n.d.). These particles enter the water supplies that are available and increase the levels of pollution in the city making the water that is available now unusable. The lack of municipal water systems and water reclamation make Xi’an’s water supply virtually non-existent (“Xi’an fingered as among China’s worst-polluted – Global Times,” n.d.).

Regarding water resources engineering Xi’an’s problems heavily relate to the topic and could be drastically improved with the repair of municipal water supply systems. The city not only needs an entire new water reclamation plan, they also need to divert rivers, lakes and completely reconstruct the infrastructure supplying the city with water. This news is shocking and alarming for water resources engineers, the importance of this issue cannot be understated. As cities begin to grow like in this case the urbanization of these areas, needs to be met with enough water to maintain a constant supply for all occupants in the city. In this case the report doesn’t refer to much technical information about the current conditions in the city, only rough estimates and accounts from those living in the city. With more provided information like annual water consumption and pollutant concentrations we could better analyze the issues present and develop ways to relive the issues as quickly as possible.

Xi’an’s water quality and quantity issues influence economic, environmental, and societal issues all in one. Without the proper amounts of water, the occupants in the city suffer and water must be brought into the city from other locations. The quality issues not only limit the way of life of the millions living in the large city, it also puts them at higher health risks, and fear of serious health problems caused by the large amounts of pollutants. On an economic stand point, to completely reverse what has happened in Xi’an, the amount of money that would need to be invested into rebuilding the infrastructure supplying the water, and municipal systems, and a reclamation plan for the city will cost billions of dollars. Environmentally the city is already in the worst condition possible, being one of the top ten polluted cities in the world makes the whole city an environmental problem. Pollutants from high levels of air pollution seep into the water supply further endangering humans as well as any other organisms using or consuming this water. The rivers supplying the city are beginning to dry up which has a huge effect on the ecosystems surrounding the city and will change the environment of any place downstream of the city due to the lack of once available water. These effects not only could affect Xi’an but any surrounding areas also relying on these rivers will also no longer have water. Xi’an may be in less than ideal conditions but with the proper water systems in place and regulations limiting their pollutant concentrations the city can once again thrive as it has for hundreds of years.

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Figure 1: High levels of air pollution in Xi’an streets (“When China Wants Better Air Readings, Cotton Does the Trick – The New York Times,” n.d.).

References:

Dong, S., Xu, B., Yin, S., Han, Y., Zhang, X., & Dai, Z. (2019). Water Resources Utilization and Protection in the Coal Mining Area of Northern China. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1214. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-38148-4

When China Wants Better Air Readings, Cotton Does the Trick – The New York Times. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/29/world/asia/china-xian-air-pollution-data.html

Xi’an fingered as among China’s worst-polluted – Global Times. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2019, from http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1042149.shtml

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Josh Crane makes this connection in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This current even was reported by NPR news on March 19, 2017 under the title, “Buenos Aires Slums Are Too Wet And Too Dry” by Max Radwin. The news report depicting the difficulties experienced by residents in poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires seems legitimate, and is corroborated by accounts from other news outlets and independent researchers. Examples of independent sources include a report by Daniel Gutman2 from the Inter Press Service; and a study published by Arzuga, Navarro, and Viñes3 (2018) examining the influence of human development on hydrologic and hydraulic response in the sub-basin of the Luján River.

The circumstances surrounding Buenos Aires’s water troubles is paradoxical. Radwing reports of an increase in flooding and decrease in potable water. Hydrologists and urban stormwater engineers in Argentina are presented with the tall order of improving urban infrastructure. Not only to address the increase in flooding but also the treatment and distribution of clean drinking water to poor communities. Right now, many receive their drinking water from informal connections to the grid (Figure 1). But these sources only provide water for a few hours a day and provide contaminated water to users2. Officials claim the streets of slum neighborhoods are too narrow to work on because they were not constructed according to code. So improving infrastructure is often not possible or very dangerous to workers and residents. Buenos Aires has historically experienced flooding. However, due to global climate change and inadequate urban planning the region suffers from more frequent floods of higher intensity. This WRE related news highlights two large scale issues facing many developing nations: Protection against climate change and access to clean drinking water for all citizens. Exploring creative and unique engineering approaches to address these problems is imperative to prevent the loss of resources and preserving health for the people living in these impoverished communities. Mr. Radwin calls out the Argentinian government, and is right to do so. Government officials have campaigned on the promise of improving these communities, but no major developments can be observed thus far. However, Radwin does not include much environmental context in his reporting. For example, specifically how much more flooding has occurred over said what amount of time? And how much more intense are these events? It would also be helpful from a WRE perspective, how has human development in Buenos Aires contributed to flooding in the area.

The history surrounding the poor communities of Buenos Aires tells a story of 275,000 residents struggling to obtain basic needs and remain off the list of priorities of their government. European immigrants settled these neighborhoods in the 1930s and ‘40s. During the reign of dictator Jorge Rafael Videla in the 1970s, 90% of residents were removed. The Argentinian government perceived them as squatters and would destroy their homes on occasion. It was not until the 1990s that the Argentinian government made any level of commitment to improve conditions in the poorest communities in Buenos Aires1. Unfortunately, this is not a unique scenario. in many other countries, citizens lower on the socio-economic totem pole are constantly struggling to obtain basic needs while politicians campaign on the promise of improving conditions. But situation in Buenos Aires is becoming dire, the aftermath of the flooding causes some residents to go days without drinking water or bathing. The economics of more flooding events of increased intensity are simple and tragic. It is no surprise that natural disasters cost countries billions of dollars in disaster relief, not including the financial burden on victims who lose their homes and lives. Considering these flooding victims are already poverty stricken, the financial toll of flooding is crushing. Residents must wait for flood waters to subside until they can reclaim what is left of their livelihood. The environmental impacts of flooding are directly tied to human health. When flood waters enter an urban area, it picks up toxic substances from various sources and human waste. Resulting in blood disorders, skin infections, and Hepatitis A. The standing water that remains is a breeding ground for mosquitos which are vectors for dengue fever and malaria. If Buenos Aires remains more focused on expanding human development than improving existing infrastructure, flooding will continue to devastate the capital city. The lack of urban planning during development decades ago has led to a chaotic distribution of residents in Buenos Aires without consideration to the hydrologic characteristics of the area. This results in populations of people being put in harm’s way as runoff peaks increase due to construction of impervious surfaces and alterations of the city’s topography3. This WRE highlights a cause and effect relationship between urbanization and hydrology enhances the size of flooding events and has consequences that adversely affect citizens of Buenos Aires.

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REFERENCES:

  1. Radwin, M. The Slums Of Buenos Aires Are Too Wet And Too Dry. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/05/19/527995345/the-slums-of-buenos-aires-are-too-wet-and-too-dry. Published March 19, 2017. Accessed April 15, 2019.
  2. Gutman, D. Access to Water is a Daily Battle in Poor Neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/03/access-water-daily-battle-poor-neighborhoods-buenos-aires/. Published March 11, 2019. Accessed April 15, 2019.
  3. Arzuaga, I. M., Navarro, G., & Viñes, S. V. (2018). Evaluation of hydrologic and hydraulic response to anthropogenic alterations of Luján River’s lower sub-basin, Las Tunas stream, in the Pampa Ondulada of Buenos Aires.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Michaela Regner makes this connection in Nagoya, Japan. This current event was reported in The Japan Times, on September 25, 2014, under the title, “Nagoya Station flooded following heavy rainstorm,” by Kyodo. According to Japan Guide, peak typhoon season in Japan takes place in August and September. Typhoons are large low-pressure systems that bring torrential rainfall from the Northwest-Pacific Ocean to Japan. Typhoons often cause all forms of transportation to cease until the weather improves.

The flooding of Nagoya Station is an example of poor flood control practices. The stormwater was able to enter the station through an air-supply window. At its worst, the flood was up to knee-height. In a nation where several typhoons make landfall every year, there should be infrastructure in place to control the stormwater produced by heavy rainfall events. This news is important for water resources engineering because it shows a need for better flood control practices to protect the underground train system in Nagoya, Japan. The article compares this flooding event to another event in September 2013 that caused severe flooding across the city of Nagoya. The article does not discuss any potential solutions to the flooding that happens on an annual basis in the city. The city of Nagoya should take action to reduce the impact of flooding on public transportation systems.

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Figure 1: A section of Nagoya Station flooded with water after a heavy storm event.

Nagoya is a mega-city that is home to 2.3 million Japanese citizens. In such a large-scale community, economic, environmental, and societal issues have the potential to have a large impact in the everyday lives of everyone. Flood control management and infrastructure in Nagoya, Japan would require a large investment. The large surge of precipitation in a heavily developed area produces an immense amount of stormwater runoff which is contaminated by animal wastes, oil and gas, and sediments. If this stormwater is not controlled and treated it could serve as an environmental and public health hazard. The transportation shutdowns caused by heavy rainfall events effect commuters that rely on public transportation to get to work and school. An article in the Water Resources IMPACT Journal discusses the societal effects of the Tokai floods that took place from September 11-12, 2000 in Nagoya. This article discusses how the flooding isolated villages in the river basin and disrupted the daily lives of the people living in the region. Nagoya is located in an alluvial flood plain that is susceptible to extreme flooding events, which means the need for a city-scale flood management plan and innovative flood control infrastructure should be a priority.

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Figure 2: A tweet about flood control infrastructure for underground train stations being implemented in Nagoya, Japan.

References:

Hatayama, M., Levy, J. K., Kajitani, Y., Hartmann, J., Tatano, H., & Okada, N. (2003). Social Resilience and the Tokai (Nagoya, Japan) Flood of September 11-12, 2000. Water Resources IMPACT,5(6), 18-21. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/wateresoimpa.5.6.0018?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

Japan Meteorological Agency. (2018, November 3). Typhoons in Japan. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2117.html

Sora News 24. (2013, September 05). Nagoya surprises citizens by unveiling new flood prevention technology. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://soranews24.com/2013/09/06/nagoya-surprises-citizens-by-unveiling-new-flood-prevention-technology/

The Japan Times. (2014, September 25). Nagoya Station flooded following heavy rainstorm. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/09/25/national/nagoya-station-flooded-following-heavy-rainstorm/#.XFCGf1xKhPY

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Kurk Ramkissoon makes this connection in Osaka, Japan. This current event was reported in Air & Space Magazine, in June 2018, under the title, “The Airport is Sinking: An engineering miracle is still no match for Mother Nature”, by Roger Mola. This is unlikely to be “fake news” as the Kansai’s sinking issue has previously been covered by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the quick settlement of the airport serves as justification for reconstruction.

The city of Osaka Japan has had trouble with noise pollution surrounding the Osaka Itami International Airport that opened in 1964. Ever since the first jet landed at Itami, residents began to protest and file lawsuits that eventually made it to the Supreme Court (Mola, 2018). An airport built on two artificial islands, three miles from shore, was considered. Kansai was built atop the two artificial islands constructed of soil hauled in from Osaka Bay, quarried from nearby mountains, and barged from China and Korea (Mola, 2018). Before any load can be distributed on the island the soil layer must consolidate and become dense. To achieve this solid layer vertical drain pipes containing fabric wick were drilled into the soil bed to allow for the groundwater to move through the pores of the soil and vertically upward until out of the soil. This process is when the soil undergoes consolidation. This is particularly important to the WRE world, because understanding the rate at which the groundwater is removed from the soil’s pores is integral to achieving settling and consolidation rates. The issue then is related to WRE through groundwater hydrology, pore-water pressure, and the urgency of the currently settling Kansai airport. The article offers information on how the engineering world is dealing with the consolidation but it doesn’t mention the specific groundwater hydrology that is pertinent to several factors of the fast settling rate.

Factors such as societal, environmental, and economic impact the very reason the airport was built in the first place. Kansai was estimated to costs $8 billion, but by 2008 the repairs and modifications that needed to take place grew that figure to $20 billion (Mola, 2018). Why take the risk and the costs associated with the risks in the first place? Japan’s transport ministry wanted to use land that was close to the city and its transportation links. The economic toll associated with building the airport near the city far outweighed the analyses of the costs of building the airport offshore, away from populated areas (Mola, 2018). The sinking Kansai airport poses societal issues, such as traffic congestion near Osaka Bay, as well as noise pollution that may still affect residents near to the bay. As for environmental issues, the reclaimed soil from the coast has not been refilled, and therefore water infiltrating the bay can make infrastructure near the bay to become unstable, and may undergo liquefaction, where the soil begins to take on water properties. One main issue not discussed in this article is the wastewater that comes from the airport and what is done with it. According to the ASCE library, the airport is predicted to be at sea level by 2058-2100 (Mesri). This extends back to why this event is important to WRE, the pore-water pressure and groundwater rates were crucial to accounting for correct settling of the airport. Despite all the challenges, Kansai International Airport is operation and continues to settle but at a vastly slower rate.

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Figure 1. Aerial photograph taken from International Space Station in 2015 of Kansai International Airport, it’s artificial islands, and the 1.86-mile long bridge that extends out in Japan’s Osaka Bay (Mola, 2018).

Reference:

Mesri G, Funk JR. Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering.

Settlement of the Kansai International Airport Islands | Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering | Vol 141, No 2. https://ascelibrary.org/doi/full/10.1061/(ASCE)GT.1943-5606.0001224. Accessed April 18, 2019.

Mola R. The Airport Is Sinking. Air & Space Magazine.

https://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/how-to-save-a-sinking-airport-180968985/. Published May 23, 2018. Accessed April 18, 2019

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Flehmer makes this connection in Lahore, Pakistan. Recent events have brought to light serious water supply issues in Lahore, located in the north eastern Punjab providence of Pakistan. Lahore is the country’s second most populous city which amplifies city’s water scarcity dilemma. This current event was reported in Pakistan Today, on August 25, 2018, Lahore’s water crisis: On a collision course with catastrophe by Moeen Khan. The information presented by Khan is corroborated by several other sources. The New York times reports similar updates on the water crisis.

In a report conducted by the World Wildlife Fund, it was estimated that 3.79 million cubic meters of water per day is drawn from a singular aquifer in Lahore (Khan, 2018). Withdrawals of this magnitude are significant, and as rapid urbanization progresses in the region, the stresses on the groundwater source will be exacerbated. In fact, the water table is decreasing at a rate of 2.5 to 3.0 feet per year (Khan, 2018). For the singular water source and growing population, these rates are highly unstainable, and the impacts are already being seen. The municipal government must take urgent action to curb water demand or the city may find its wells dry. This issue is directly related to WRE as it illustrates the importance of managing groundwater sources, water use/demand, and developing sustainable solutions meet water needs. Lahore is not the only example of urbanization threatening a population’s water supply, but it does stand as important news for WRE related issues as it may help warn and educate other regions of urbanization on how to better plan and manage their water resources. In the article, Khan fails to mention the feasibility in utilizing surface water sources to provide additional water resources for Lahore and neighboring communities. There is also no discussion of the WRE option to reuse/recycle water which would increase the region’s water sustainability.

Water supply issues are infinitely tied to society, economy, and the environment. Without enough water, entire cities collapse, and surrounding ecosystems also suffer the consequences. Professor at Government College University, Dr. Amin ul Haq Khan, blatantly states “The public needs to realize that clean drinking water will become increasingly difficult to obtain if present trends continue. There is an urgent need to change social habits.” (Khan, 2018) Dr. Khan clearly illuminates the need for the public to adopt water conservation practices, such as installing rainwater catchment barrels and limiting the use of drinking water for nonessential, non-potable purposes. These social changes will be essential if the city hopes to provide enough water to support the growing population. Additionally related to the social and environmental implications of this WRE problem is urban planning. “Lahore is expanding horizontally”, says Professor Dr Habibur Rehman at the University of Engineering & Technology in Lahore. However, Lahore should be expanding vertically if it wants to allow groundwater recharge, prevent deforestation, and reduce effects of the urban heat island which has worsened over the past several years as the result of using impermeable building materials throughout the city. Engineers and city planners must reconsider previous design strategies if they don’t want to their city running out of water. As is true for most limiting resources, those with financial wealth will have greater accessibility to limited resources, in this case water, than people who cannot afford access. This socioeconomic issue reveals itself as another implication of the Lahore water crisis as private housing schemes are currently allowed to withdrawal water from private wells without regulation (Khan, 2018). Related to economy, the city of Lahore must generate proper funding for more resilient water infrastructure if it expects to have enough water for generations to come. The article Rainwater harvesting, a measure to meet domestic water requirement; a case study Islamabad, Pakistan by Awan Rashid et al. elucidates how water scarcity in Pakistan has been heightened by urbanization and industrialization, necessitating the implementation of rainwater harvesting as an alternative water resource (Rashid et al., 2018). Therefore, it is abundantly apparent that other regions of Pakistan, and many other parts of the world will likely face similar WRE issues. Water is a limited resource in Pakistan and many counties, and when coupled with population growth and improper water management policies, it is no surprise that water is scarce in so many regions of the world. Rainwater harvesting stands as one example of WRE that may help resolve water scarcity issues, but to fully combat dwindling water supplies, countries must also amend their water policies, budget for water infrastructure investments, and society must learn to conserve the invaluable resource.

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Figure 1 Graphical representation of the exponential population growth in Lahore, Pakistan. There has been a population increase of 4.8 million people since 1998.

References:

Khan, M. (2018). Lahore’s water crisis: On a collision course with catastrophe. [online] Pakistantoday.com.pk. Available at: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/07/23/lahores-water-crisis-on-a-collision-course-with-catastrophe/ Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Masood, S. (2015). Starved for Energy, Pakistan Braces for a Water Crisis. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/world/asia/pakistan-braces-for-major-water-shortages.html Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Rashid, F., Ullah, Z. and Hassan, I. (2018). Rainwater harvesting, a measure to meet domestic water requirement; a case study Islamabad, Pakistan. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, [online] 414(1), p.012018. doi: 10.1088/1757-899X/414/1/012018. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and social issues. Our student Lauren Perry makes this connection in Mumbai, India, where infrastructure and socioeconomic inequality threaten water resources. This current event was reported in The Mumbai Mirror on November 19, 2018, under the title “No one to detect water leaks in half the city as BMC disband”, by Chaitanya Marpakwar. The piece details the stresses on the water distribution infrastructure of Mumbai, India. The water shortage problem has its roots in the depletion of the seven lakes that supply water to Mumbai. A recent April report shows that the dammed lakes are at 26% capacity, the lowest in three years (Pinto, 2019). An article from urban issues magazine Citizen Matters based in Mumbai corroborated the sources of water shortages (Hepzi, 2019), adding that the 43 and growing amount of skyscrapers in the city add stress to the already tenuous water pressure provided to residents, as more energy must be expended to pump water to height of 100+ stories.

The Compounding Water Shortage Problem

In addition to the source-related issues of water shortages, there are other infrastructure problems that stem from socioeconomic issues. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), whose motto “Where there is Righteousness, there shall be Victory” reflects the heroic task of supplying 18 million residents with clean water (Subbaraman & Murthy, 2015), is responsible for building and maintaining hydraulic infrastructure in Mumbai. A main responsibility of the BMC is to check for leakages and failures in the water distribution system, which account for losses of 30% their total water. However, BMC has defunded contractors whose job it is to respond to reported leaks and pressure drops. The dwindling manpower as well as the 100-year old failing infrastructure make for unreliable clean water sources (Marpakwar, 2018).

The volume of potable water lost to leakages has been estimate at 650 million liters in the last year (Marpakwar, 2018), but this estimate is difficult to quantify. This is because most “leakages” are actually illegally tapped spouts used by poor residents to get water they would otherwise be barred from using. Tapping into the main water line decreases flowrate and pressure, lessening the pressure downstream for other residents and further compounding the water shortage.

The criminal drafting of the mainline leads to a positive feedback loop that creates more water losses – the haphazard welding of smaller pipes onto the mainline cause leakages at these connections, and the cheap piping material, often buried underground to avoid detection, is easily broken from cars and foot traffic over time, leading more illegal pipes built to replace them (Anand, 2012). In order to properly understand how severe the water distribution problems are, more information on the piping system is necessary, such as how pressure head is achieved, how much do they need to sustain flowrate, and what is the flowrate of through BMC pipelines.

Social and Economic Causes and Effects

Population growth and rural flight are contributing to the 18 million and growing population of Mumbai, 41% of which live in slums. The skyrocketing population puts a stress on infrastructure and resources, and the slum-dwelling lower and middle classes are bearing the brunt of this weight. While the Indian government has cycled through many slum rehabilitation programs since the 1960s, the programs frequently overlook the distribution of clean water. Under the current program, residents who have settled on their land prior to 1995 are considered “notified” and are entitled to water access from the municipal water supply, among other benefits (Subbaraman & Murthy, 2015). While it is progressive for the government to recognize slum-dwellers, the early cut-off date bars newer residents who have settled in the last three decades, as well as those who cannot prove their residence. The issue of delivering water to Indians living in slums has become a human rights issue. While the wealthier areas of Mumbai like Dahisar and Malad are provided with 24-hour water access, residents of poorer areas received only buckets a day. Compounded by the strict caste system in place, slum-dwellers have little to no economic and social mobility, making access to better homes, jobs, and resources difficult. For these Indians, it is easier to purchase water access from the local “water mafia” that controls illegal facets than to get government approval for water rations. In some cases, BMC engineers are a part of the untaxed economy that sells illegal water to poor residents (Lewis, 2009).

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Figure 1. Mumbaikars gathering at an illegally tapped underground pipe, fighting for access to clean water. (Photo by Manoj Patil/Hindustan Times. (Telponde, 2017).

In a journal article for AnthroSource, author and Mumbai water resources expert Nikhil Anand makes the figurative connection between the water pressure demanded by citizens and the political pressure put on politicians and professionals to provide adequate water for their citizens. From the tapping of water mains to illegal pumps provided by renegade plumbers, residents otherwise deprived of clean water have found ways to circumvent the corrupt and inadequate water distribution system the BMC provides (Anand, 2011).

The inequality and inefficiency of infrastructure makes it difficult for engineers to rectify the failing water system. Without knowing how much pressure and how many connections are needed to provide water to residents, it is impossible to calculate and design an adequate system. This engineering challenge can only be solved with the social and economic improvement of disenfranchised neighborhoods, as well as with the cooperation of the Indian government and BMC. Where there is righteousness there is victory, and without the social and political pressure to force ethical water practices by the government and residents, there is little hope for victory in the near future.

References:

Anand, N. (2012). Municipal disconnect: On abject water and its urban infrastructures. Ethnography13(4), 487-509.

Anand, N. (2011). Pressure: The politechnics of water supply in Mumbai. Cultural Anthropology26(4), 542-564.

Telpande, J.U. (2017). In Just 10 Years, India Is Going To Face A Massive Water Crisis [Blog post]. Youth Ki Awaaz.

Marpakwar, C. (2018, Nov 19). No one to detect water leaks in half the city as BMC disband. Mumbai Mirror.

Lewis, C. (2009, Dec 2). BMC turns a blind eye to illegal water connections. Times of India.

Subbaraman, R. & Murthy, S.L. (2015, Apr 6). The right to water in the slums of Mumbai, India. World Health Organization.

Anthony, H. (2019, Apr 6). In the news for heavy rains every year, why is Mumbai still water-deficient? Citizen Matters.

Pinto, R. (2019, Apr 8). Mumbai: 25% water left in dams, lowest in 3 years. Times of India.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Jessica Mink makes this connection in Chongqing, China. This current event was reported in Clean-Energy-Ideas on March 22, 2019, under the title, “The Three Gorges Dam Project” by James Bratley. This is likely real news, based on independent analysis on this current event on February 25, 2019 by Britannica.

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River generates the largest amount of annual hydroelectricity in the world, with an installed power capacity of 22,500 MW (Bratley, 2019). The controversial dam not only produces year-round electricity for the nation but also provides seasonal flood control and improves ship navigation along the river. Although the construction of the dam began in 1994 and was completed in 2006, it is a topic worth revisiting, as this massive engineering project has created both positive and negative long-standing impacts concerning the economy, environment, and neighboring Yangtze river communities that are still encountered today. This report has failed to inform the reader about the progressive steps made by China who has committed to the protection of the Yangtze river. Due to the construction of the dam, along with the construction of multiple dams along the water source, pollution has increased, and the river’s ecosystems have deteriorated. Due to the insistent pressure from International Rivers, Ministry of Environmental Protection and the support from the Chinese government, at the end of 2017, an area known as the Yangtze River Economic Belt has been designated. This eliminates the motion for the construction of new industry projects within a one kilometer stretch to protect the last area of the river with free-flowing water (Jensen-Cormier, 2019). The intentions of the Three Gorges Dam were to produce clean energy for the citizens, which unfortunately led to related environmental issues; this step forward allows for the partial preservation of a beautiful natural resource, before it’s too late.

Societal, environmental and economic issues dictate key aspects of the Three Gorges Dam, making it an exceptionally contentious topic. The event relates to the economy, which has benefitted from the implementation of the dam as it has facilitated trade, improved transportation of both cargo and passengers by river use, promoted tourism, and provided large parts of the nation with necessary electricity, while also creating thousands of jobs for the people throughout the production of the dam. It is important to consider societal impacts that have stemmed from the construction of the dam, including relocation of thousands to millions of people from their homes (Bratley, 2019). Other key concerns involve fear of dam the collapsing and the potential catastrophic results since the dam area is located near a seismic fault. This is valid concern considering the large quantities of water contained and the possible occurrence of an earthquake or landslide event (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). The most profound impacts have related to the environment. The construction of the dam alone removed 102.59 million m3 of earth (Bratley, 2019). The alteration of the surrounding landscape for dam and reservoir construction has deteriorated the climate, caused a removal of plant and wildlife species due to a destruction of habitats in the area, and has led to water pollution created by land erosion, which also impacts biodiversity. Although there are disadvantages to this infrastructure, it positively impacts the environment through the use of clean energy as opposed to the burning of fossil fuels. The reservoirs large storage capacity, 22 km3, is also beneficial as it reduces seasonal flooding (Bratley, 2019).

The model of the Three Gorges dam has been replicated domestically and internationally.  China Three Gorges Corporation is looking to implement a similar $5.7 billion (US) hydropower project. This too will have an environmental impact, although the company has committed to a $22.6 million (US) program to protect the environment throughout construction, with emphasis on waste water treatment, declaring that they will restore the landscape when the project is completed. This project is projected to generate 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year and is estimated to provide more than 3,000 jobs and additional training to Pakistani hydropower engineers (Yangpeng, 2019). Although drawbacks are apparent when constructing an engineering project of this magnitude, it is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Hydroelectricity is a clean energy source that eliminates the burning of fossil fuels and contributes to the reduction of harmful emissions, which ultimately is a step in the right direction.

Figure 1: Above is an image of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. This grand and controversial infrastructure has provided China with clean, reliable, renewable energy and economic growth.

References:

Bratley, J. (2019). The Three Gorges Dam Project – Clean Energy Ideas. [online] Clean Energy Ideas. Available at: https://www.clean-energy-ideas.com/hydro/hydropower/three-gorges-dam-project/ [Accessed 12 Apr. 2019].

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019). Three Gorges Dam | Facts, Construction, Benefits, & Problems. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Three-Gorges-Dam [Accessed 12 Apr. 2019].

Jensen-Cormier, S. (2019). China Commits to Protecting the Yangtze River. [online] International Rivers. Available at: https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/435/china-commits-to-protecting-the-yangtze-river [Accessed 13 Apr. 2019].

Yangpeng, Z. (2019). CTG chief: Chinese dams will help electricity-starved Pakistan. [online] South China Morning Post. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2119898/china-three-gorges-pakistan-dams-will-benefit-electricity-starved [Accessed 12 Apr. 2019].

 

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Sydney McCombie makes this connection in the Rhine River, Germany. This current event was reported in The New York Times, on November 4th, 2018, under the title, “The Rhine, a Lifeline of Germany, Is Crippled by Drought”, by Christopher F. Schuetze. This article is likely to be accurate as the Rhine River’s water level decrease has been previously been covered in the Regional Environmental Change journal by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research5.

The increasing frequency and intensity of summer droughts in Europe are wreaking havoc on trade and commerce in Germany. In Germany, 223 million tons of cargo are transported by ship every year, with 80 percent of that being transported along the Rhine River. The Rhine River’s flow relies on both rainfall and snowmelt from the Alps. As the average global temperatures rises and causes instability in global weather patterns, many areas in Europe will experience higher occurrences of both flooding and drought. An increase in average temperature not only has the potential to lower average rainfall, but it reduces the amount of water stored in the Alps and therefore decreases the amount of snow melt feeding into the Rhine River. Climate change has already impacted the Rhine-river area in Germany; in the summer of 2018 water levels were so low in the Rhine (as low as 10 inches) that many commercial barges and large boats were unable to navigate through the river1. The inability to travel on the Rhine affected Germany’s economics so intensely that many economic experts believe that it was partially responsible for the decline of Germany’s manufacturing sector. This is because the inability of commercial travel along the river resulted in a decrease in the availability of raw goods needed for manufacturing, as well as difficulty in transporting finished goods to their final destinations2. As the global climate continues to change, the German government and businesses alike will need to turn to water resource engineers to help predict the frequency and intensity of these droughts. The ability to predict precipitation levels and drought occurrences will be absolutely vital to any area that relies on waterways as a means of commerce transportation. These areas will experience large hits to their economy if they are unprepared to deal with these droughts, and do not have alternative methods of transportation for goods. The articles provided by the New York Times and Business Insider gave much insight into the effect of the Rhine River drought on Germany’s manufacturing sector, but failed to give a competent breakdown of the average depth reduction of the river as well as the change in precipitation caused by the drought.

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Figure 1. A cargo ship attempts to navigate the extremely dry Rhine River. Some boats have reduced their cargo weight in order to reduce the depth they ride in the water.

As the economy of Germany is largely dependent on manufacturing, the inability of many business to transport raw goods and final projects caused the economy to suffer. Some of the effects of the drought were felt by consumers, as the price of many goods (such as natural gas) rose due to higher costs of production. As goods become harder to get, the prices of many everyday items could increase significantly and would place a strain on German consumers. Of course, the lower water levels in the Rhine River do not only affect the economy. These extreme droughts have the ability to increase the concentrations of pesticides and contaminants in the river due to the lower volume of water, can decrease the oxygen levels in the river, and have already causes tons of fish and freshwater mussels to die3. A report on the neighboring Meuse River confirmed that past droughts have degraded water quality, causing problems such as increased water temperatures, increased concentrations of metals, decreased dissolved oxygen concentrations, and eutrophication4. It is pertinent that the reoccurrence and intensity of these droughts are able to be better predicted, so that educated decisions can be made regarding the use of the affected waterways in order to reduce the negative impacts of droughts on water quality and regional economies.

Reference List

  1. Schuetze CF. The Rhine, a Lifeline of Germany, Is Crippled by Drought. The New York Times.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/04/world/europe/rhine-drought-water-level.html. Published November 4, 2018. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  1. Martin W. Europe’s mightiest river is drying up, most likely causing a recession in Germany. Yes, really. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/germany-recession-river-rhine-running-dry-2019-1. Published January 22, 2019. Accessed April 1, 2019
  2. Rising D, Associated Press. Low water levels causing problems in Germany. Independent.ie.  https://www.independent.ie/world-news/low-water-levels-causing-problems-in-germany-37464839.html. Published October 27, 2018. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  1. Vliet MV, Zwolsman J. Impact of summer droughts on the water quality of the Meuse river. Journal of Hydrology. 2008;353(1-2):1-17. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.01.001.
  2. Huang S, Krysanova V, Hattermann F. Projections of climate change impacts on floods and droughts in Germany using an ensemble of climate change scenarios. Regional Environmental Change. 2014;15(3):461-473. doi:10.1007/s10113-014-0606-z.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Nathan Hengy makes this connection in Rio de Janeiro. This current event was reported in Public Radio International (PRI), on February 9th, 2017, under the title, “Rio’s water cleanup barely works and it’s crimping impoverished fishermen,” by Will Carless. The pollution of Rio’s Guanabara Bay and the Brazilian government’s continuing failure to clean it has been an issue documented by multiple news organizations. This trend shows that the short comings of environmental protection reported in the article are legitimate.

Guanabara Bay contains high levels of petro-based waste from oil industries, as well as garbage and sewage. The sewage issue stems from a lack of wastewater treatment plants in surrounding rural communities, so people are forced to dump waste directly into the bay. The contamination has killed fish in the bay or made them inedible (Garcia-Navarro, 2016). Guanabara Bay’s pollution is therefore both a water treatment infrastructure and an aquatic ecosystem remediation problem.  The Brazilian government has continuously failed to apply water resources engineering principles to address the issue; instead, they have made the quality of life worse for people who depend on the bay (Carless, 2017). The article was written well for the intended audience. Naturally, it did lack specific water resources information, such as biochemical oxygen demand, heavy metal concentration, and other quantifications of water quality, because it was not written for engineers.  A reference to a scholarly water resources engineering article relevant to the story would improve the PRI report.

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The water quality of Guanabara Bay plays an important role for Rio de Janeiro; it is a tourist destination and a source of fish for local communities. This makes the health of the bay critical for the social, economic, and physical health of Rio as a whole. Many subsidence fishermen depend on the bay as their main source of food and income (Garcia-Navarro, 2016). The contamination of the bay further exacerbates their troubles by reducing the amount of fish they can sell or eat. The pollution also makes the bay less desirable to visit, hurting the city’s large tourism industry. Environmental health of the bay has degraded due to the lack of wastewater treatment plants. This led to a continuous accumulation of oil, sewage, and flotsam ultimately making the bay partially inhospitable (Carless, 2017). The degradation of environmental quality is also a self-perpetuating issue. Brazilian researchers found that plastic debris in the bay can carry bacterial biofilms through the water, enabling a dispersal of fecal bacterial contamination (Silva et al., 2019). The main societal issue is that Brazil’s response disproportionally inconvenienced fishing communities, while doing very little to actually clean the bay. The government installed eco-barriers, which are floating barriers that trap floating oil and garbage; however, these structures blocked fishermen’s access to the bay. Fishermen then destroyed the barriers, as they had to get to the bay to get food to survive. Even when the eco-barriers remained in tack, they only stopped about 7.5-percent of the trash (Carless, 2017).  The Brazilian government did not consider the needs of rural people, causing greater social inequality. Without applying sustainable water resources engineering systems, rural fishermen will face greater economic hardships and the quality of Guanabara Bay will only get worse.

References:

Carless, W, (2017, February 09). Rio’s water cleanup barely works and it’s crimping impoverished fishermen. Public Radio International. https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-02-09/rio-s-water-cleanup-barely-works-and-it-s-crimping-impoverished-fishermen

Garcia-Navarro, L. (2016, June 17). For Olympic Sailors And Fishermen Alike, Rio’s Dirty Bay Sets Off Alarms. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/06/17/482458856/for-olympic-sailors-and-fishermen-alike-rios-dirty-bay-sets-off-alarms

Hearst, C. (2013, December 10). Rio’s Waters Continue to Face Pollution Issues. The Rio Times. https://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-politics/rios-waters-continue-to-face-pollution-issues/

Silva, M.M., Maldonado, G.C., Castro, R.O., de Sá Felizardo, J., Cardoso, R.P., dos Anjos, R.M., & de Araújo, F.V. (2019).  Dispersal of potentially pathogenic bacteria by plastic debris in Guanabara Bay, RJ, Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 141, 561-568.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1930164X