Category: Uncategorized


URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169555X14001792

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our student Kaitlin McCann makes this connection here…

The article entitled Recent rates of sedimentation on irregularly flooded Boreal Baltic coastal wetlands: Responses to recent changes in sea level from the Journal of Geomorphology published on July 15, 2014 focuses on the hydrology and sedimentation of Boreal coastal wetlands on the coast of the Baltic Sea.  The specific issue arises from increases in sea level as a result of the movement of atmospheric pressure systems and fluctuating meteorological conditions (Ward et al., 2014).  As this article is a published scientific Journal article, in addition to my engineering education, I can say that the facts presented on this topic are very accurate.  The only information that I believe may have been missing from the article is the explanation of some of the terms used, such as glacial-isostatic adjustment.

I believe that the broader context areas impacted by this issue are mostly economic and environmental.  Flooding is a natural disaster that causes significant damage on coastlines, which can cause a huge economic burden in terms of disaster relief.  In this particular study, the focus is on wetlands and how increased sedimentation due to flooding is causing progradation of the wetlands.  This negatively affects the benefit that the environment receives from the function of these wetlands.  As my main source was a Journal article, I have found an article from the World Wildlife Fund regarding how the Baltic Sea is experiencing eutrophication as a result of increased nutrients loads (World Wildlife Fund).  This could be attributed to the progradation of the wetlands to the Baltic Sea after increased sedimentation.

Figure 1. Location of the Boreal coastal wetland study sites on the Baltic coastline.

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Figure 2. This image from the World Wildlife Fund shows the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea in the summer of 2005.

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References

Ward, R., Teasdale, P., Burnside, N., Joyce, C., & Sepp, K. (2014). Recent rates of sedimentation on irregularly flooded Boreal Baltic coastal wetlands: Responses to recent changes in sea level. Geomorphology, 217, 61-72. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from ScienceDirect.

World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). Threat of eutrophication to the Baltic Ecoregion. Retrieved March, 22, 2015, from http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/baltic/threats/eutrophication/

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URL: http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/case-study-chennai-metropolitan-water-supply/1/203655.html

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Anna Poliski makes this connection by analyzing the growing demand for water supply in the country of India, specifically in the city of Chennai and what is being done to fill this demand.

The WRE news article, entitled “Quenching Chennai’s Thirst” was published in the journal Business Today on March 16th, 2014.  The article focuses on the hydraulic domain of water resource engineering specifically dealing with the distribution and quality of water. The article discusses the growing population in India and the need for a more stable water supply.  Most of the water in India is dependent upon the monsoon season to fill their reservoir, which can be an extremely unstable source.  The Indian government along with private companies decided to turn towards desalination due to the country’s vast coastline. Metro Water, the leading supplier of water to Chennai, now supplies up to 831 million liters of water per day to the city (Madhavan). Although the article seems to think that desalination is a viable and long-term solution to India’s ongoing water demand, it fails to discuss other issues in India’s water system. India’s limited reservoir storage and aging piped network infrastructure are also still current issues that reduce the efficiency of water supply (Srinivasan et al).

India is just one of the countries that is increasing in size at an alarmingly fast rate.  A growing population correlates directly to a larger demand in water supply. This is not only a global and economic issue, but an environmental issue as well. Desalination was once considered a nonconventional resource to supply potable water to several countries, but with advances in technology it is now highly plausible and affordable (Ghaffour et al). Finding a reliable, clean source of water that is both affordable and environmentally friendly will be the greatest challenge for both scientist and engineers for future generations to come.

Figure 1: Model developed by Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board

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References:

Ghaffour N, Missimer T, Amy G. Technical review and evaluation of the economics of water desalination: Current and future challenges for better water supply sustainability. Desalination[serial online]. January 15, 2013:309:197-207. Available from:Scopus, Ipswich, MA. Accessed Marh 12,2015

Madhavan N. Quenching Chennai’s Thirst. Business Today [serial online]. March 16, 2014;23(5):110-114. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 12, 2015.

Srinivasan, V., S. M. Gorelick, and L. Goulder (2010), A hydrologic-economic modeling approach for analysis of urban water supply dynamics in Chennai, India, Water Resour. Res., 46, W07540, doi:10.1029/2009WR008693.

URL:http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2015/02/salina_street_sinkhole_tuesday_may_have_been_triggered_by_nearby_repair_on_satur.html#incart_related_stories

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Kyle Magill-Jones makes this connection here about Syracuse’s aging water infrastructure and the potential to cause deadly sinkholes.

The article used for this blog is “Salina Street sinkhole may have been triggered by previous repairs nearby” written by Tim Knauss from Syracuse.com on February 11, 2015. This WRE news relates to hydrology because it relates to the infiltration of water from the aging distribution system that is constantly requiring repairs to stop leaks or bursts. This news story talk about how the pipe broke previously and was fixed but due to the pipe leaking it caused a sinkhole when the when the car was parked on the area where the work was done. The accuracy of this story is correct based on my two sources stating the problems with Syracuse’s water infrastructure can cause sink holes. The article forgot to add how the addition of minerals such as salt, which can add to the effect of sinkholes and make them easier to form.

This problem has created huge societal problems because with these sinkholes becoming more popular it is making the public realize the severity of this problem. With people realizing this problem they are also realizing the extremely large cost that is associated with the solution. This issue has been a very popular issue brought up by local politicians because of the large amount of money that will be needed to fix the problem. “Miner’s Syracuse Billion plan focuses on water system, infrastructure improvements” goes through the process in which the mayor has put together an agenda you fix the water infrastructure if given the money from the state. With visually dangerous affects being broadcasted it causes the mayor to have to make changes and try to fix the problem with it being so dangerous.

Figure 1: car that sank into sinkhole

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References:

Cochran, Molly. “What Causes Sinkholes to Form?” AccuWeather. N.p., 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

“Miner’s Syracuse Billion Plan Focuses on Water System, Infrastructure Improvements.” Miner’s Syracuse Billion Plan Focuses on Water System, Infrastructure Improvements. N.p., 26 Nov. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

“Salt Industry in Syracuse, New York.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Tknauss@syracuse.com, Tim Knauss |. “Salina Street Sinkhole May Have Been Triggered by Previous Repairs Nearby.” Salina Street Sinkhole May Have Been Triggered by Previous Repairs Nearby. N.p., 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2015

URL: http://www.isse.ucar.edu/redriver/text.html

Water Resources Engineering connects hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our Student Adam Scicchitano makes this connection here regarding the inherent uncertainty in making predictions and the real world consequences of ignoring uncertainty.

The article entitled “Who Decides?  Forecasts and Responsibilities in the 1997 Red River Flood” was reported in the Applied Behavioral Science Review in the 1999 (issue 7-2).  This paper relates to the Water Resources Engineering domain of hydrology, specifically predicting the occurrence and magnitude of floods.  The article, while not directly a current event, demonstrates what is at stake as predictions are made using hydrologic data, which is not only a current concern as spring approaches, but also something all in the WRE field should bear in mind in the future.  In summary, the article describes the Red River flood of 1997 in Grand Forks, ND. Flood evacuation decisions were made by policy makers based on a National Weather Service prediction of a 49’ river flood stage and a levee height of 51’.  What was not taken into account with this prediction was the margin of error, which would have been around 10%.  The river crested at 54’ leading to widespread devastation in Grand Fork ND on the order of $1-2 billion.  It was concluded in the aftermath of the flood that the NWS needed to better understand the uncertainty inherent in its forecasts; this information has value to decision makers. In this case misuse of a prediction lead to more damage than if there were no prediction at all.  Based on my engineering education, I believe that WRE facts presented in this article are sound.  I realize that whenever I take a measurement or produce or work with data, that that data has limitations and, especially with complex models, a slight difference in initial conditions can yield very different results.  The article did a good job at looking at what went wrong in this situation and how it might be fixed, but it failed to mention how these lessons could be translated to other predictions made using WRE data in similar situations.

Water is singularly important to everyone on earth, therefore water resources engineering by definition effects individuals, societies, economies, and environments around the planet.  As I write this I’m looking out my window at three-four feet of snow piled everywhere; this water storage will, hopefully, melt in a couple months and the stored water will then become storm water, ground water, and overland flow.  This article demonstrates how miscommunications with respect to hydrologic data can severely impact people’s lives.  Flooding takes more human lives than any other natural disaster Takeuchi (2002), therefore it is important that we as WRE professionals do the very best we can to help protect people.

Images:

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Figure. 1 Downtown building destroyed by fire during the flood. Photo credit: Grand Fork Herald.

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Figure. 2 “Sorlie bridge 1997”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

References:

Wurbs, R.A., James, W.P. Water Resources Engineering. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2002.

Who Decides? Forecasts and Responsibilities in the 1997 Red River Flood. Roger A. Pielke, Jr. Applied Behavioral Science Review, 1999: 7(2), 83-101

Takeuchi, K. Floods and Society: a Never-Ending Evolutional Relation, in Flood Defence 2002, edited by B. Wu, Z. Wang, G. Wang, G. Huang, H. Fang and J. Huang, pp. 15-22, Science Press, New York Ltd, New York, 2002.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Haley Canham makes this connection here…

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Haley Canham, makes this connection here with the Minute 319 agreement between the US and Mexico concerning water management of the Colorado River in times of drought.

The article, Dynamic Delta: Policies, Partnerships, and water for the Colorado River Delta by Karen Schlatter from the Water Resources Impact Journal was published in September of 2013. The article concerns both the hydraulic aspect of dam water management and the hydrology aspect on the ecological benefits as a result of restored river flow. The story dealt with the movement of water and the effects of the restored flow on the ecosystem. Due to withdrawals from the river for agriculture use and damming the Colorado River has not reached the sea since the 1960s. The article explains the expected effects of the release of 130 million cubic meters of water from the Morelos dam, part of the Minute 319 agreement. The article focused heavily on the ecology of the delta and the restoration that the released pulse of water would have on the delta. The WRE facts in the article do seem to be accurate. Occasional El Nino effects bring heavy rain to the region and the effect on the delta can be seen. Water reuse and constructed wetlands for wastewater filtration on the delta are referred to in the article as a way to restore the delta. Both accurately reflect WRE and the effects that restored flow would bring to the delta. More information on the effects of the volume of water in the 70 miles of river bed to the delta would be important information for determining the effectiveness of the released water pulse.

The issue has numerous effects including environmental, economic, societal, and global. Environmentally, the restoration of the delta would bring back large diversity and life to the delta. Many people have historically depended on the river and the delta for social and economic aspects. The restoration of the delta would also restore important fisheries, an important local economic source. Finally, the agreement between the US and Mexico and the released pulse flow have set an example for other countries and rivers that no longer reach the sea. The pulse flow has already impacted the delta through water reaching the sea for the first time since the 1960s for an extended period of time. The release was timed to coincide with plant seed production. The delta has seen a positive effect as a result of the pulse flow. Another article, The Colorado River by Jackson Reed from the Water Resources Impact Journal published September 2013, also addresses this issue. The released pulse flow has had a positive impact on the Colorado River Delta and provides important data for future restoration efforts.

URL: http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/89761708/dynamic-delta-policies-partnerships-water-colorado-river-delta

Figure 1-The Colorado River Delta during the pulse flow, March 2013, source: National Geographic

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Sources

Howard, B., (March 22, 2014). Historic “Pulse Flow” Brings Water to Parched Colorado River Delta, National Geographic News.

Jackson, R. (September 2013). The Colorado River. Water Resources Impact, 15 (5) 1.

Schlatter, K., (September 2013). Dynamic Delta: Policies, Partnerships, and water for the Colorado River Delta. Water Resources Impact, 15 (5) 3-5.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Take a look at these 13 pictures that capture a year of stunning science and engineering. Here we re-post a the picture rich story from Nature, “In 2013, our Universe continued to amaze and delight as it was probed and prodded by scientists. During the course of the year, the gaze of researchers ranged near and far, from the vast to the minuscule, providing stunning visions of space and capturing images of the very bonds that tie molecules together. This is our selection of the pictures that highlight science’s, and nature’s, triumphs”

 

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

FAR OUT

Peer carefully at the lower right of this image and you might just spot the tiny dot that is Earth, seen from more than a billion kilometres away. This vista of Saturn’s famous rings backlit by the Sun was assembled from 141 individual images taken by NASA’s Cassini probe after it moved into Saturn’s shadow in July.

Marat Ahmetvaleev

FIRE IN THE SKY

This huge fireball was created by the largest meteor known to hit Earth since the Tunguska rock landed in 1908. Russia was once again the unlucky recipient: the meteor exploded some 30 kilometres above Chelyabinsk in the Urals and shone brighter than the Sun.

Xiaohui Qiu/Science/AAAS

VISUAL LINK

Chemists have become almost blasé about taking images of individual atoms. But with skilful use of atomic force microscopy, researchers in Beijing managed to capture the first pictures of hydrogen bonds, seen here as faint lines between four molecules of 8-hydroxyquinoline.

Kwanghun Chung & Karl Deisseroth/HHMI/Stanford Univ.

MIND READER

This is one of the first ‘transparent brains’ to be made with CLARITY, a neuroimaging method that renders brains — in this case a mouse hippocampus — transparent by stripping away lipids with detergent. The technique reveals neurons in three-dimensions, instead of conventional two-dimensional slices.

Satoshi Takeuchi

MAGIC MOMENT

Reminiscent of an art installation, these γ-ray detectors in Japan captured evidence that calcium atoms with 20 protons and 34 neutrons are stable, identifying 34 as a ‘magic number’ of nuclear stability.

Dominic Clarke/Science/AAAS

FLOWER POWER

These images show faint electric fields around an idealized flower. UK researchers found that bees sense these fields: one bee leaves a positive charge behind and others can use it to decide whether to visit the flower.

Dimitry Papkov/Joel Brehm/Yuris Dzenis

SMALL AND MIGHTY

Made of polyacrylonitrile, these nanofibres seem to defy logic — the thinner they get, the stronger and tougher they become. Made by electrospinning, in which a tiny charge draws fibres from a liquid, their slim build makes them up to ten times stronger than thicker versions currently used in optics and electronics.

Jamey Stillings

SOLAR STATION

This sci-fi-esque scene offers a glimpse of the future. Solar-power installations — such as this one at the Ivanpah Dry Lake in California, where the Sun’s rays boil water to drive a turbine — grew in number and size in 2013. Some estimates predict that this source of energy will soon overtake wind power.

Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures/FLPA

BROUGHT TO LIGHT

The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) was a rare find: a new land-mammal species discovered in the forests of the Andes. A member of the racoon family, the creature was formally described in August after a search prompted by previously misidentified museum specimens — although it turned out that an olinguito had previously been kept in US zoos.

Erik Rosolowsky/ALMA Radio Telescope

BLOWING IN THE WIND

A mass equivalent to nine Suns is blown out from the galaxy NGC 253 every year by a powerful space wind. The ALMA radio telescopes in Chile imaged the carbon monoxide in this wind in unprecedented detail and revealed the extent of the ejection. Regions of low emission intensity are red, and those of high intensity are blue-purple.

Aaron LeBlanc

ANCIENT YOUNG

Dating to around 195 million years ago, this bone (shown in cross-section) comes from a dinosaur embryo. It is one of about 200 such bones sampled from a bone bed in China. The rare finds offered fresh data on dinosaur development.

Jose Jacome/EPA/Corbis

OLD FLAMES

Tungurahua in Ecuador has been erupting near-continuously since 2010, and sporadically since at least 7,750 bc. The volcano has provided a wealth of scientific data, including a study this year showing that local settlements were devastated in an eruption in 1,100 bc, making it the site of one of the oldest-known volcanic disasters in the Andes.

Kirsten Faurie/Kanabec County Times/www.MoraMinn.com

BONUS ONLINE-ONLY EDITORS’ CHOICE

Although this image didn’t make our end-of-year print piece, it captivated our selection team. It shows Terry Headley, a volunteer with the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, rescuing an injured bald eagle in April.

Ecosystem services are functions performed by ecosystems that are directly useful to humanity [1]. Common ecosystem services include air pollution removal, mitigation of storm water (reduction of runoff), water purification, control of erosion, protection from extreme storms, tourism, carbon sequestration, and provision of food, fuel and fiber. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report found that the functioning of the world’s ecosystems is declining, and that humanity is dependent on ecosystem functions and services for our well-being [2].

Understanding and valuing these ecosystem services is one important step towardprotecting and managing them. Two efforts are the i-Tree project and the Natural Capital Project.

“Natural coastline like this in Rehoboth Bay, Del., can protect homes and cities against storms” [3].

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readers of this blog may be familiar with the i-Tree project from other posts.  The i-Tree project continues to expand, aiming to further advance our understanding of ecosystem services and provide tools to help cities and communities improve the management of these resources.  One current research area is urban forest optimization (UFO – I want to believe!), also known as an urban forest decision support tool. This research aims to fill the need for a quantitative, scientifically informed means to maximize the various benefits of the urban forest and understand the tradeoffs between them.

These tradeoffs between ecosystem services can be quite complex. For instance, there is likely an optimal set of locations to plant trees to address stormwater retention, but a different set of optimal locations to address air pollution. When multiple ecosystem services are considered together, the problem gets rather complicated. A formal optimization analysis will help cities get the most out of their trees and urban forest budgets.

One local potential test case for the optimization or decision support tool is Onondaga County’s Save the Rain tree planting program that will plant 8,500 street trees in Syracuse, NY by 2018 [4]. About 1,200 trees have already been planted, so the remaining project provides an opportunity for testing the optimization algorithm. How could such a tool provide additional guidance on where to plant the remaining 7,300 trees or maximize other ecosystem services while still meeting Save the Rain’s goal of increasing stormwater infiltration?

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Save the Rain’s street tree planting program trains community
members in the planting, maintenance, and identification of trees [5].

Where possible, the UFO project will further expand the scope of ecosystem services considered to include socioeconomic benefits including the effect of urban forests on physical activity and health and its contribution to neighborhood cohesiveness. Such largely unaccounted-for benefits of urban forests are a challenge to quantify or value, but if understood could advance our knowledge and practice of urban forestry in support of human health and well-being.   An additional area of focus will be on quantitative measures of inequality, such as spatial and demographic inequality in air pollution risk.  Recent work [6] has adapted quantitative inequality indices from the global development field for air quality and urban studies.

 

Coastal Systems and the Natural Capital Project
Another important focus related to ecosystem services is the resilience of ecosystems. How can ecosystems be managed to be more resilient against natural disasters and other stresses, and how can ecosystem management decrease the risk of disasters or extreme events to humanity? This is especially important for coastal regions.

Researchers at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment and the Natural Capital Project quantified the risk to US coastal areas due to sea level rise and extreme storms. They calculated potential savings to property and lives saved, also calculating a hazard index based on risk to property value and human lives. They analyzed differences in risk and hazard ratings by age and income groups to examine potential disparity, and also compared risk indices between locations with and without significant natural coastal ecosystems. They compiled this information in a national map showing the risk indices, as seen below.

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Coastal hazard index for the United States and human population
by state with and without natural coastal habitats [7].

According to the study, “the number of people, poor families, elderly, and total value of residential property that are most exposed to hazards can be reduced in half if existing coastal habitats remain fully intact.”  The study is useful to policy makers and managers because it shows where conservation and restoration of reefs and coastal vegetation have the greatest potential to protect coastal communities. It also shows the value of maintaining existing natural coastal systems [8].

As our understanding of ecosystems and the crucial services they provide grows, our ability to manage them and integrate human society with nature will improve.

 

 

1.  Another definition of ecosystem services is “the stream of vital benefits flowing from natural capital to people”, where natural capital is the “Earth’s lands, waters and their biodiversity”. (www.naturalcapital.org)

2.  Millennium ecosystem assessment synthesis report. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005.

5.  http://savetherain.us/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/STRStreetTreeBrochureEmail.pdf

6.  Fann, Neal, et al. “Maximizing Health Benefits and Minimizing Inequality: Incorporating Local‐Scale Data in the Design and Evaluation of Air Quality Policies.” Risk Analysis 31.6 (2011): 908-922.

7.  Arkema et al. Coastal habitats shield people and property from sea-level rise and storms.  Nature Climate Change 2013. 

8.  ibid

ERE graduate student Emily Stephan has received a Research Assistantship Program award from the Mianus River Gorge Preserve (MRGP) to study the influence of land use and management on nutrient cycling in watersheds. Her research will focus on nutrient cycling in the Mianus River watershed, which has an area of approximately 42 square miles and spans the towns of Bedford, North Castle and Pound Ridge in New York, as well as Greenwich and Stamford in Connecticut. Emily will be doing water chemistry analysis, specifically focusing on nitrogen and phosphorus species, at various points within the Mianus River watershed, choosing locations which drain areas of varying land use.

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Figure 1 – Map of 2006 land cover for the Mianus River watershed

Emily’s sampling efforts will help to inform the development of a new nutrient routine for nitrogen and phosphorus which she will develop for i-Tree Hydro, a tool developed by the teams of Dr. Ted Endreny and Dr. Chuck Kroll at SUNY ESF in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service. The current water quality estimates of i-Tree Hydro are based on proven event mean concentration algorithms advocated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and used in many watershed models, including the US EPA Stormwater Management Model (SWMM). While the event mean concentration algorithms are based on empirical data and are able to predict stormwater nitrogen loads in i-Tree, i-Tree does not have the next-step algorithm that simulates how vegetation can intercept and filter nitrogen from the stormwater. Through Emily’s research, we hope to be able to model the effects of such efforts as stormwater management structures as well as the effect of increasing tree cover and reducing connected impervious area.

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Figure 2 – A forested piece of the Mianus River, near the Mianus River Gorge Preserve office in Bedford, NY

Recent research suggests that human influence may well be the driving factor behind urban biogeochemical cycling. Therefore, there have been several studies examining the effects of human decision on nutrient loading in urban watersheds. Carey et al. 2013 suggest that it will be important to monitor turfgrass, pet waste, and septic systems as potential significant sources of nutrient loading in urbanizing/urbanized watersheds. Emily hopes to utilize the connections between the Mianus River watershed communities and the Mianus River Gorge Preserve to develop surveys that will lead to a spatial distribution of where these sources of nutrients lie within the watershed, and how their harmful effects can be mitigated with land management decisions.

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Figure 3 – Emily discusses the goals of her project with MRGP Executive Director Rod Christie, MRGP Director of Research & Land Management Chris Nagy, and MRGP undergraduate interns Chris and Alex

Stay tuned for more updates regarding Emily’s work down in the Mianus River watershed!

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Catherine Sobchuk makes the connection between WRE and economic and environmental issues here… On January 24th, 2013, Brandon Loomis of The Arizona Republic reported the news entitled, “Grand Canyon flood experiment restores beaches on the USA Today online news site. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology, specifically the effects of artificial flooding of the Grand Canyon by Glen Canyon Dam. In brief, this article reports on the efforts and effects of replenishing the sand bars along the Colorado River that have eroded since the dam’s completion. The river washes sediment away to Lake Mead, and upstream sediment is unavailable to replace it because it is blocked by the Glen Canyon Dam. The flooding of the dam allows the blocked sediment to flow along the river and churns up additional sand from the bottom of the river, replenishing the eroded sand bars. The experimental flooding is executed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and monitored throughout the year by the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC). Some conservationists believe the flooding of the dam is not doing enough for the sand bars, and that alternative actions should be taken to transport sediment down the river. These options include breaching the dam, transporting sediment around it, or giving up altogether. The results from this flood will not be fully known until later in the year, but so far the targeted sand bars have grown, while others have not grown as much. The article goes in depth about the benefits the sand bars have to the environment, the potential economic effects, but does not discuss the testing or monitoring techniques. The GCMRC would need to monitor how the sand bars grow and erode and how the habit around the sand bars change. This article intended to focus on the effects of the experimental flooding, but it would have benefited from describing how the sand bars would be monitored.

 

WRE is an interdisciplinary field that involves the management of hydrologic and hydraulic systems to reduce negative impacts and maximize positive impacts. The flooding of the Colorado River at the Glen Canyon Dam would have beneficial impacts on the environment in the river system, but the flooding and its alternatives also have negative economic impacts on the surrounding community. The flooding is meant to provide “young endangered humpback chubs a shelter from the river…a windborne source of cover for uphill archaeological sites and a purchase for vegetation.” This would increase the fish numbers and diversity and promote the growth of a variety of vegetation along the sand bars, potentially returning the river to pre-dam conditions. However, when the dam is bypassed, the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association reported about $1.4 million in power generation was lost, a serious economic cost. There is also the economic cost of more than $100 million if the alternative pipeline is built to transport sediment around the dam. To determine if the environmental benefits outweigh the economic costs, a cost-benefit will have to be conducted. The environmental benefits can be measured by determining how much money people would be willing to pay to visit the site if it was back to pre-dam conditions and by determining the price of any other environmental benefits. This is then compared to the costs of breaching the dam or building a pipeline to complete the analysis. After all of the results are collected and analyzed, the GCMRC will be able to determine if the experimental flooding has the intended effects and therefore, if it should be continued.

Figure 1: The Colorado River is flooded November 19, 2012 from bypass tubes at Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona.

Figure 1: The Colorado River is flooded November 19, 2012 from bypass tubes at Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona.

 

References

Loomis, Brandon. “Grand Canyon flood experiment restores beaches.” USA Today. Gannett, 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/24/ grand-canyon-flood-experiment-restores-beaches-habitat/1863483/>.