Category: Water Resources Engineering

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Maureen McCarthy, makes this connection in Bangkok, Thailand. This current event was reported on VOAnews, on January 12th, 2019, under the title, “Bangkok fights floods with thirsty landscaping,” by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Rina Chandran. This news article describes how flooding is very common in the city of Bangkok, especially during monsoon season. Every monsoon season, a large portion of the city is infiltrated with excessive amounts of water, and parts of the city are entirely submerged every year. The city was once composed of so many canals that the name “Venice of the East” was coined to describe its nature. Since then, so many of the city’s canals and waterways have been filled during construction, and the city has also experienced an exponential increases in urban sprawl. Because of this, climate experts conclude that the city is sinking by over 1 centimeter each year. So many canals are being filled up and there is such a low ratio of green space within the city that there is no place for all the water to go. This results in the increased runoff rates and flooding that the city has been experiencing.

The recent increase in flooding in Thailand is quantified in the case study titled “Hydrologic Sensitivity of Flood Runoff and Inundation: 2011 Thailand Floods in the Chao Phraya River Basin” by T. Sayama, Y. Tatebe, Y. Iwami, and S. Tanaka. This case study talks about the flooding that occurred in Thailand during the 2011 monsoon season which is considered the worst flooding in decades, putting over one fifth of the city underwater. The goal of the study was to quantify hydrologic sensitivity in Thailand, and it simulated inundation for the entire Chao Phraya River Basin. This study has shown that the flooding inundation volume in 2011 was 1.6 times greater than past flooding events. The news article talks about how Bangkok is built on the floodplains of the Chao Phraya River, and is an urban area that is expected to be greatly influenced by warming temperatures. As simulated in the study Hydrologic Sensitivity study, more and more of Bangkok is expected to become inundated with water in the coming years. In fact, it is projected that by the year 2030, about 40% of the city could be inundated (Sayama etal, 2014).

Reducing runoff is starting to become more and more of a concern in Bangkok, and initiative is being taken to reduce disaster effects. A “metro forest” is being built in the city, which would convert two acres of abandoned land into forested land in order to reduce urban sprawl. One of the city’s existing parks is designed at a three degree angle, collecting excess runoff in a retention pond at the park’s center. While water is flowing through the park to the retention pond, native vegetation and porous pavement filter the water. At the highest end of this existing park, there is a museum covered with a green roof, used to filter rainwater which is then stored in underground tanks. This park can hold up about 1 million gallons of water for the use of the city during the dry season. Not only does this park serve the purpose of dissipating the dangerous effects of flooding during monsoon season, but it also serves a purpose to benefit the city during the dry season, no water is wasted in this park. Green infrastructure is an important aspect of water resources engineering, and the purpose of green parks like this is to soak up water during flooding events, helping the city to adapt the changing climate by minimizing storm water runoff. The University of Michigan has been conducting research on Green Roofs, confirming that their main benefit is to mitigate storm water runoff within urban areas (Getter, Rowe, 2006).  Even though the addition of green infrastructure is very beneficial, several other initiatives have been taken to reduce flooding wreckage within the city, but not all of them take on such a direct approach. Part of the process of fixing Bangkok’s problem is to educate its people. A societal shift is necessary if the city of Bangkok is going to continue to thrive within the changing environment. If people can learn to take initiative themselves to learn about the effects green roofs and permeable driveways and yards have on the urban landscape, the city of Bangkok will make great strides in mitigating the effects of climate change.


Figure 1: Residents of Bangkok during the 2011 flood season, the worst flooding in Bangkok on record.


K.L. Getter, D.B Rowe. Benefits of Green Roofs. Benefits of Green Roofs. Published 2006. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Reuters, Reuters. Bangkok Fights Floods with Thirsty Landscaping. VOA. Published January 9, 2019. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Sinking Bangkok fights to stay afloat with a new anti-flood park. South China Morning Post. Published October 5, 2018. Accessed May 1, 2019.

Tanaka. Hydrologic sensitivity of flood runoff and inundation: 2011 Thailand floods in the Chao Phraya River basin. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. Published July 24, 2015. Accessed May 1, 2019.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Eoin Rapp makes this connection in Shenzhen, China. This current event was reported in Elevate, on, December 12th, 2018, under the title, “Shenzhen as China’s Pioneer “Sponge City”: Dialogue with The Nature Conservancy,” by Gloria Luo. This is unlikely to be “fake news” as China’s continued water supply and runoff problems are well documented for several years now, and such a water shortage serves as a justification for more natural systems of retaining water in cities.

The Chinese government’s Ministry of Housing and Ministry of Rural-Urban Development in partnership with local municipalities launched the Sponge Cities program almost 5 years ago. This undertaking falls under the realm of stormwater management, and it’s a part of an ambitious goal by the Chinese State Council to effectively use 70% of storm rainwater in cities. This effort to manage stormwater fulfills an essential role of water resources engineering by preventing or reducing downstream flooding (Chin, 2013). The development of these green infrastructures is important to the WRE community as it fundamentally addresses a major WRE goal of managing and controlling water runoff, and it serves and an example of using the available resources of rainwater and new technologies such as absorbent pavement in order to reach this goal of water management. While the article does provide general descriptions of green infrastructure types the specifics on the type of rainwater quality and quantity in Shenzhen as well as more concrete examples of green infrastructure were not addressed, both of which are important design factors in creating a stormwater management system.

Societal, environmental and economic issues dictate key aspects of stormwater management system sand include public understanding and acceptance, water quality in the rainwater and the surrounding watershed, and government and private sponsorship and support. The development of this stormwater management and recovery system is projected to bring about a huge social change as it is projected that there will be a significant reduction in the water shortage and water importation into the Shenzhen city area, which will affect the availability and cost of water for residents, changing their daily lives and understanding of water. Environmental impacts to be considered from the development of the stormwater management collection system is the vast amount of water that will not be leaving the city via storm sewers or flooding and any of the associated impacts that might have. This undertaking is a huge financial endeavor with total investment for the whole Sponge City program estimated to cost anywhere from 300 billion to 1 trillion is U.S. dollars for both private and public entities over the course of 10 years. Trouble with managing stormwater and the resulting flooding with green infrastructure is not a new problem, as has been illustrated in a case study involving Cleveland and Milwaukee, (Keeley et al, 2013). Keeley et al, describes the environmental impact that green infrastructure can have on larger industrial cities and its overall importance especially regarding reducing rainfall runoff over impermeable surfaces and revitalizing cities green spaces. With the successful application of green infrastructure in cities in the U.S., the Chinese effort that is significantly more centrally led and funded stands a good chance of achieving its goals of retaining most of the rainwater that enters the city. Shenzhen China’s efforts to implement WRE can be simplified to a cause and effect relationship, where the cause is a water shortage having risen from an increased population in areas with limited water resources and an overwhelming waste of that rainwater resource into problematic flooding, and the effect was the implementation of stormwater management systems that have successfully captured and utilized that rainwater for other beneficial purposes.


Figure 1 A map of the newest district in the city with different green infrastructure projects in varying sectors shown.


  1. Chin, D. A, (2013), Water Resources Engineering Third Edition, Pearson.
  2. Harris M. China’s sponge cities: soaking up water to reduce flood risks. The Guardian. Published October 1, 2015. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  3. Shenzhen as China’s Pioneer “Sponge City”: Dialogue with The Nature Conservancy. ELEVATE. Published December 12, 2018. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  4. International Water Association. Published January 1, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2019.
  5. Keeley M, Koburger A, Dolowitz DP, Medearis D, Nickel D, Shuster W. Perspectives on the Use of Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Environmental Management. 2013;51(6):1093-1108. doi:10.1007/s00267-013-0032-x.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Tianna Tyler makes this connection in Shantou, China. This current event was reported in Science and Technology Daily on Thursday, September 17th, 2017, under the title, “The story of a Small Chinese Town That Faced up To and Won the war on pollution That Was Destroying Their Livelihood.” This is unlikely to be “fake news” as Shantou China’s potable water shortage has previously been covered by Guangdong Chaonan Water Resources Development and Protection Demonstration Project (RRP PRC 46079). In which methods of remediating water scarcity are discussed.

Shantou, China is one of the largest cities in South East China, with a population size of approximately 4.8 million people. Therefore, it is no surprise that when a disturbance such as a flood or rain event occurs inadequate water and waste water will not be able to handle high volumes of inflows that occur. Shantou, China has experienced many environmental issues and devastations such as flooding, water and waste water pollution, and sewage overflows. In addition, some districts in Shantou are not equipped to meet present and future water supply demands. However, Shantou is making great strides to improve their water infrastructure systems and reduce pollution.

For example, the Chaonan District in Shantou, is challenged by increasing domestic and industrial water consumption because, the three major water supply systems have yet to be connected for efficient water resource allocation. Also, the water pipe coverage is insufficient, and some water pipes laid out by communities in late 1980s or early 1990s are aging. However, through the Nanshan flood diversion project some water has been made available. The project prioritizes flood diversion and drainage, with a secondary focus on providing water for irrigation, waterways, and drinking water. It starts from the flood release tunnel in the west of the Jinxi reservoir. Then passes the Lipo reservoir in the east and collects the water into the Qiufeng reservoir. It also collects water from sub-water systems of the Hongkoushe reservoir, the Longxi reservoir, and the Xiaolongxi River. Finally, it enters the South China Sea in the end, and has a total catchment area of 216.6 km^2 . (Guangdong Chaonan Water Resources Development and Protection Demonstration Project (RRP PRC 46079) NA).

In the article by Science and Technology Daily, another Shantou district is discussed. The district of Chaoyang is also making a conscience effort to improve water infrastructure within their township. There has been comprehensive treatment actions and other design implementations to mitigate the impact of their water resources. For example, rain-sewage diversion, landscaping, flood control and other measures. In addition, there has been ongoing testing and monitoring at water treatment to facility ensure that water is safe for public use (Science and Technology Daily 2017).

Finally, Shantou China along with other municipalities in China, have been implementing a new design called “sponge-cities”. This implementation is designed to tackle urban water issues such as purification of urban runoff, attenuation of peak runoff and water conservation. The concept of this design to use blue and green spaces in urban storm water management and control (Chan et al. 2018). Shantou’s local government is looking to enforce strict control emission of pollutants and implement the strict water resources management systems.

In WRE, poor water infrastructure is an issue that impacts communities economically, environmentally, and socially. Water infrastructure impacts a community economically because, poor infrastructure means less access to water, for daily needs and purposes. This especially affects communities that depend on agriculture. This becomes an environmental issue because poor infrastructure leads to pollution, loss of wildlife, and habitat destruction. Finally, this is a social issue because, it not only impacts overall human health, but it disproportionally affects those in marginalized communities. As a result, they end up paying more for cleaner water (Deck & Roy 2019) socially, economically, and environmentally the local government are taking the proper strides to not only remediate their community but make their city more resilient.


Figure 1: Rescuers help people affected by flood in Chaoyang District, Shantou City, South China’s Guangdong Province


Figure 2: Image of sponge-city in a Chinese Providence


Guangdong Chaonan Water Resources Development and Protection Demonstration Project (RRP PRC 46079): Summary Water Balance Assessment

Science and Technology Daily: The story of a Small Chinese Town That Faced Up To and Won the War on Pollution That Was Destroying Their Livelihood (2018)

English.GOV.CN The State Council, The People’s Republic of China: State Council approves Shantou’s city plan (2017)

Chan F., Griffiths J., Higgitt D., Xu S., Zhu f., Tang Y., Xu Y., & Throne C.: “Sponge City” in China—A breakthrough of planning and flood risk management in the urban context (2018)

Jerica D., & Roy S.,: Poorer People Pay More for Clean Water Report finds (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.


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


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.


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.).


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.

When China Wants Better Air Readings, Cotton Does the Trick – The New York Times. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2019, from

Xi’an fingered as among China’s worst-polluted – Global Times. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2019, from

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.



  1. Radwin, M. The Slums Of Buenos Aires Are Too Wet And Too Dry. NPR. Published March 19, 2017. Accessed April 15, 2019.
  2. Gutman, D. Access to Water is a Daily Battle in Poor Neighborhoods in 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.


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.


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

Japan Meteorological Agency. (2018, November 3). Typhoons in Japan. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from

Sora News 24. (2013, September 05). Nagoya surprises citizens by unveiling new flood prevention technology. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from

The Japan Times. (2014, September 25). Nagoya Station flooded following heavy rainstorm. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from

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.


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).


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. Accessed April 18, 2019.

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


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.


Khan, M. (2018). Lahore’s water crisis: On a collision course with catastrophe. [online] Available at: Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Masood, S. (2015). Starved for Energy, Pakistan Braces for a Water Crisis. [online] Available at: 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).


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.


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.