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Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Erica Van Althuis makes this connection in Mumbai, India. This current event was reported in Bloomberg, on April 5, 2017, under the title, “Failed Winter Rains, Looming El Nino Challenge India’s Factories” by Archani Chaudhary. The droughts in India have also been covered by several other sources, including Richard Mahapatra in Down to Earth magazine, which describes how poor policies and increasingly extreme weather patterns have caused parts of India to experience the worst droughts recorded.

These lowered reservoir levels have decreased not only due to less rainfall, but because of poor agricultural and water conservation practices, this then leads to less water flowing into reservoirs and cities, causing water resource engineering problems both in watershed and soil areas. Water scarcity in Maharashtra is a regular pattern now, as the area has not seen regular amounts of rainfall since 2013 (Chaudhary, 2017), indicating that this is an issue that needs to be solved, not a one or two-year drought that is going to pass. While Chaudhary states that climbing temperatures and decreased rainfall have dropped reservoir levels, it was not indicated when rainfall can be expected and how much more the reservoir levels are supposed to drop before that happens.

Figure 1 – Farmers stand in a field of dried sugar cane (Mahapatra)

The lowered reservoirs impact the well-being of industries, society, and the environment in the surrounding areas, as these three sectors begin to compete for water. Many factories in Mumbai and in the rest of the Maharashtra region are fearing that lack of water will leave them unable to produce, and that they’ll have to pull out of the region (Chaudhary). This will increase unemployment and cause the economy to decline. The reservoirs are suffering not only because of lack of rain, but due to the increased growing of sugar cane, which consumes approximately five times as much water as maize and moong, which were commonly grown previously (Mahapatra, 2016). This degrading of the soil has led to less water flowing into the reservoirs, making droughts more impactful on areas that depend on those reservoirs (Mahapatra, 2016). Last year, when similar droughts occurred, several disputes between states erupted over river sharing and water resources causing political unrest and decreased welfare in the affected areas (Chaudhary). Water conservation needs to improve in both agricultural and urban areas if India’s water crisis continues to worse, waste water engineers will need to innovate new ways to improve water usage.


Chaudhary, Archana. “Failed Winter Rains, Looming El Nino Challenge India’s Factories”. N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Maharapatra, Richard. It is Not a Drought. Down To Earth [serial online]. May 2016;24(24):20­23. Available from: Environment Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 20, 2017.



Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Ben Taylor makes this connection in London, United Kingdom. This current event was reported in The Guardian, on September 14th, 2016, under the title, “Increased drought could see Londoners queueing for water,” by Fiona Harvey1. This is likely an accurate depiction of a London current issue as Eddie Buckle with Bloomberg reported on this same issue in March of 20162.

London, UK, is in a potentially difficult situation with water distribution, based on their increasing population (see Figure 1.). From the source of the water to the faucet, this is a challenge in WRE. Solutions will have to integrate WRE concepts of pipe networks, flow, scour, and treatment. This is important news for WRE because the potential water shortages in London is evidence that water problems are not bound to developing nations. Many times, we think that water distribution issues or shortage is not a problem in cities or areas that have been “westernized”, but this is not true. We must continue to study and invest in our modern water distribution systems to ensure public health and wellness. This report in The Guardian doesn’t address personal responsibility that Londoners should feel in the water saving efforts. It focuses on the actions Thames Water, the private water distributors, but fails to appeal to the reader in how we can help with delaying or avoiding this potential water shortage.

Figure 1. London’s historic and projected population

This potential water shortage problem has effects in the economic, environmental, and social realms of London and the surrounding areas. Water is a center point of human well-being. Financially, a water shortage would be devastating. I would speculate that Parliament would step in and intervene in the processes of Thames Water to update infrastructure and increase the water storage. This will likely cost millions of dollars, which would be passed on to taxpayers. Any disruptions in water service will have impacts on local businesses, and may cause some to move based on concerns. This water shortage also relates to environmental issues. New reservoirs or infrastructure construction would impact the landscape, whether through digging or building. Finally, this WRE issue feeds into societal issues. One of the largest societal issue is the public concern around potential solutions. It has been suggested that treated sewage be reintroduced to the Thames river, and then retreated for drinking3. BBC reports that “many Londoners were unhappy at the idea of drinking waste water3.” Mancosu et al. took a look at water scarcity issues in 2014, in terms of agriculture. They concluded that “The correlation between the expected increase in irrigation water requirements, critical values of renewable freshwater resources and economic water scarcity, indicates the necessity for regional policy coordination and careful water management strategies at the national and site levels4.” This is a clear correlation between water shortage and the effects on society through policy and government. With proper management of the water levels and solutions in London, I am confident that a catastrophe will be avoided and Londoners will continue to live with access to clean water.


  1. Harvey, Fiona. Increased drought could see Londoners queueing for water. The Guardian. 14 September 2016.
  2. Buckle, Eddie. Growing London Faces Water Shortages and Overflowing Sewage. Bloomberg. 8 March 2016.
  3. London ‘could drink treated sewage’- Thames Water. 10 May 2013.
  4. Mancosu N, Snyder R, Kyriakakis G, Spano D. Water Scarcity and Future Challenges for Food Production. Water 2015, 7, 975-992; doi: 10.3390/w7030975. 10 March 2015.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Shaimus Ryan, makes this connection in Tehran, Iran. This current event was reported in the Tehran Times on May 7, 2016, under the title, “Water Crisis in Iran: A Desperate Call for Action” by Kaveh Madani. In addition, this water crisis has also been recognized and reported on by Western publications such as the Washington Post, which ran an article titled “Iran’s Water Crisis the Product of Decades of Bad Planning.”

In Iran, it is becoming more and more difficult to supply the country’s population of around 78 million people with water. As Kaveh Madani explains, this has several root causes. However, it is closely linked to the water resource engineering practices that have been used in Iran for the last couple of decades. While Iran once invested heavily in sustainable water management, its efforts have changed to simply treating immediate problems, as opposed to planning for the future. This has now resulted in a constant need for new solutions to treat the symptoms of the underlying problems. These underlying problems have their roots in bad water management solutions, particularly when it comes to agriculture. In Iran, 92 percent of all water is consumed by agriculture (Madani). Due to Iran’s large population, and its more isolated economy, food security is very important, as the country must produce much of its own food. However, the farms that produce this food are inefficient when it comes to water usage. Many of these farms exist in rural areas, and rely on groundwater due to a hot climate with unreliable precipitation. Much of this farmland is in need of investment in water resource engineering techniques to boost water efficiency. Currently, the irrigation efficiency is only 35%, with only 5% under pressured irrigation (Madani).

Figure 1. Water Crisis In Iran

Agricultural problems are not the only drivers of Iran’s water crisis, however. The drivers of this crisis include problems with the economics surrounding water management as well. In addition, many environmental and societal factors are contributing to this problem. The increasing size of Iran’s largest metropolis, Tehran, is an indication of how societal factors are magnifying the water crisis. Tehran, home to 14 million people, has grown in recent decades with the large migration of Iran’s population to cities. In addition, increasing the population growth rate of Iran is both the official policy and cultural tradition of the nation. With so many people relying on the surrounding country for their supply of water, Iran’s limited water resources are being stretched to their maximum. To help mitigate this problem of water usage, several economic solutions have been proposed. For example, the author of the referenced article, Kaveh Madani, suggests increasing the cost of water, so as to lower its usage, and creating a water market, in order to increase the economic efficiency of water in Iran. In addition, he suggests more investment in the rural communities which use water for agriculture. Finally, it has been suggested that climate change may be worsening the water crisis in Iran. While this is uncertain, it is easy to see how other environmental factors come into play in Iran. While Iran has twice the world’s average of water usage, it only has one third of the world’s average in precipitation. In addition, many of the most populated places in Iran, such as the Tehran metropolis, are without their own regional water resources, and rely on the transport of water from other regions to survive. One of the greatest dangers to Iran at the moment is the potential depletion of its groundwater resources, which the Iranian people currently rely on. Should this happen, we would see a human catastrophe in Iran, particularly in its densely- populated capital. The future of Iran now relies on a combination of proper governance of its water resources and the implementation of water resource engineering.


Rezaian, Jason. “Iran’s water crisis the product of decades of bad planning.” The New York Times (2014).

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Ryan Ruggiero makes this connection in Shenzhen. This current event was reported in The Diplomat, on September 16th, 2015, under the title, One Chinese City’s Struggle With Water Scarcity, by Coco Liu. If you don’t believe me or Coco Liu, check out this article, Water Pollution and Degradation in Pearl River Delta, South China, published in the Journal of the Human Environment, know as AMBIO. This article is a review of the water pollution and degradation of the Pearl River delta, which encompasses Shenzhen. The issue being discussed in the news article is water scarcity, which is considered and examined in this article as ‘degradation volume’ pollution.

This article reviews the current solutions to the water scarcity/water pollution issues that Shenzhen is facing along with what the city hopes to implement in the future to improve the situation further. The city has taken action to install green infrastructure and practice overall good water resource management methods to help with the issue at hand, water scarcity. Water scarcity in Shenzhen is currently being solved by importing water/diverting a river, both being energy, environmentally and economically taxing. The reuse of the cities gray and wastewater into a usable, reclaimed gray water is a step in the right direction with respect to capture of the resource that would otherwise be discharged to the many waterways passing through the city. The main green infrastructure the city is currently taking advantage of is pours land cover types, including pours pavement, rain gardens (with flood tolerant vegetation) and wetlands. Most of the areas with these land cover types are bounded below by catchment structures that allow for the storage and usage of what would otherwise be surface discharge and originally subsurface discharge into the polluted waterways of the city. Capture at a point in the hydrologic cycle ‘upstream’ from stream flow reduces the work required in obtaining usable water for the city, even with the infrastructure required for the large underground basins and surface cover materials (Liu, 2015). The city has also given citizens incentives to use less water by increasing prices when a usage threshold is exceeded (Liu, 2015). This article clearly expresses the issues Shenzhen, and more likely than not, other mega and non-mega cities either currently or in the future will face with the increasing stress climate change puts on ever growing urban development. The measures taken in Shenzhen could be used in other developing or current cities to prevent the water scarcity problem/remedy an existing issue, respectively. This article however lacks the numerical information with respect to the improvement of water reclamation green infrastructure is able to provide during the cities wet season, which up until their installment, precipitation has gone directly into the cities polluted waterways. This would of given some insight to the effectiveness of the cities efforts, which in the past have been lavish yet to no avail (Huifeng, 2014).

This article takes consideration to all three facets of WRE issues—it is important to address these issues in any modern city. Shenzhen is a large metropolis that must be mindful of environmental impacts resulting from urbanization, which will ultimately benefit the cities intrinsic goals to be both economically and socially feasible. The environmental issue regarding Shenzhen’s water scarcity is closely related to climate change and pollution of the rivers: droughts cause waterways to become seasonal, while established waterways are some of the dirtiest in Southern China (Huifeng, 2014). One solution, that currently provides water for 70% of the city, is the diversion of the Dongjiang River. The river north of the city is diverted into 17 tunnels and pumped up to storage tanks; elevation wise, it is kept above the city, where it is treated and divided among its citizens. The economic issue in relation to Shenzhen’s water scarcity is the energy requirement for the pumps that the diversion project depends on. The providences power company stated that the diversion project was one of the major energy consumers that they supply (Liu, 2015). The providence’s provider uses coal to generate the electricity it provides, contributing to the economic and additional environmental burden this issue it puts on the city (Liu, 2015 and Zhou, 2014). To combat the cities dependence on the diversion project, the city is starting to require the recycling of gray and wastewater. Overcoming the idea of using the reused water poses a vast societal issue for the city, where the fear of improper separation from the drinking water supply is overbearing for many. Zhou in 2014 showed that water pumping was one of the major players in Shenzhen’s energy consumption while also outlining the indirect environmental degradation as a result of the pumping requirements. The study is concerned with planning and managing the cities energy generation and usage, which if executed properly would benefit the economic and social issues as well.

Figure 1. Shenzhen River depicted here at one its most polluted States

Shenzhen is a growing city that has pollution based water scarcity issue because of its metropolis existence. Without remedy of the natural waterways, which are of extremely low quality, the issues with relation to water scarcity may be resolved, but not without compromise to the social and economic issues that are rooted in the scarcity issue. This is why it is so important to resolve the underlying environmental problem because usually it is a cause of a multitude of issues. WRE encompasses the 3 aspects it does because it makes sense to take all 3 into consideration when designing and managing a solution to the original problem. By Shenzhen solving its water scarcity issue with only the diverting the Dongjiang River, economically this burden would become an issue for the city, not to mention any social issues that might arise when the Dongjiang is unable to supply its original users and the megacity.

Huifeng, H. (2014, September 19). Shenzhen is losing its fight against pollution in main rivers. Received April 17, 2017.

Zhou, Y., Li, Y., & Huang, G. (2014). Integrated modeling approach for sustainable             municipal energy system planning and management – A case study of  Shenzhen, China.Journal of Cleaner Production,75, 143-156.

Liu, C. (2015, September 16). One Chinese City’s Struggle With Water Scarcity. Retrieved April 17, 2017.

Z. Zhu, Q. Deng, H. Zhou, T. Ouyang. (2002). Water Pollution and Degradation in                              Pearl River Delta, South China. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 31(3), 226-230.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our student Geoffrey Golick makes this connection in Shanghai, China.  This current event was reported by the English-language China News Service (ECNS) online news on April 13th, 2017, under the title, “Shanghai lacking in environmental protection, inspectors find” by Feng Shuang.  This is likely real news, based on the many sources stating Shanghai’s poor water quality and pollution problems, including a news article on NASDAQ’s online news service.

This news article relates to water resources engineering in the specific area of water distribution systems and their performance criteria.  The focus of the article deals with the extreme pollution conditions that are present in Shanghai, and the lack of law enforcement patrolling the polluters.  In 2013, 800 companies were ordered by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to stop production due to excessive pollution, and are still running today.  Water quality in Shanghai has not been getting better, but has been worsening since 2013.  Out of 259 water samples tested, 88 were deemed unfit to be used even for irrigation or industrial purposes, let alone potable water.  This is important news for water resources engineering because it is the job of the engineers and scientists to treat the water.  At a certain point, having regulations on emissions just is not enough, especially when the regulations are not being met.  Water treatment plants need to be designed by engineers to help produce suitable water for the people of Shanghai to drink.  What is missing from the article is the status of current water treatment plants that are in Shanghai, and the quality of water that is coming from them.  Also, the condition of the water distribution pipe network in Shanghai is not noted in the article.

Figure 1: The Huangpu River through downtown Shanghai

The water quality issues in Shanghai has significant impacts environmentally, socially, and economically.  First, to treat the raw water in the Huangpu River (Fig. 1) in Shanghai, there needs to be funding.  It is expensive to put water through all the treatment processes of that it goes through in a water treatment plant.  Shanghai is one of the richest cities in China by gross domestic product, and, in recent years, they have been putting money into treating the water coming from the river.  However, the factories are still not being regulated by law enforcement and continue to dump chemicals into the river, along with raw sewage being discharged into the river.  Clearly, this is a large environmental concern.  The Huangpu River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, and it serves as the main source of drinking water for a great many people living in one of the largest cities in the world.  While residents of Shanghai can drink the tap water by using a filter attached to their faucet, it is not recommended for anyone from a developed country to drink any tap water in Shanghai.  This causes social issues as well.  The wealthy can afford to have bottled water, a filter on their tap, or even cleanlier distribution systems.  The poor people of Shanghai are forced to drink only what they have available to them.  The poor quality of tap water in Shanghai was also reported by Yao et. al. (2015) who studied six different inorganic anions present in water samples from Shanghai taps.  Yao et. al. (2015) found through their studies that tap water in most districts of Shanghai is polluted with inorganic anions, and that the phosphorous pollution in Shanghai is especially serious.  The cause-effect relationship between water pollution and its impact to society happens when the high concentration of contaminants begins to cause ailments in the people drinking the water, making the water quality detrimental to the health of the people.


Yao, D., Zhang, K., Wang, C., Zhu, L. (2015) The Analysis on the Evaluation of Shanghai Tap Water Quality in Terms of Inorganic Anion Concentration. Shanghai, China: Shanghai Normal University.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Jessica Emmerson, makes this connection in Istanbul, Turkey. This current event was reported in Information Technology Newsweekly, on April 4th, 2017, under the title, “Investigators from Istanbul University Release New Data on Information and Data Systems [Prediction Of Water Consumption In Istanbul By Means Of Statistical Forecasting Models & Geographic Information Systems (gis)”.This is a reliable news source based on the fact that it is based on research done by Istanbul University and the research is also referenced in “Istanbul : the challenges of integrated water resources management in Europa’s megacity”, an article from the journal, Environ Dev Sustain.

Figure1. Scenic downtown Istanbul, a relatively dense city of Turkey

The completion of the research by Istanbul University marks a very important moment in the way water infrastructure projects are viewed in the megacity and surrounding areas. Drinking water consumption is a constraint on water system designs that was not, until now, effectively modeled. “As such, effective investment can be considered and supported” (Information Technology Weekly). This is important in developing sustainable and successful infrastructure investments for the city. The report of the research completion may have been more informative if it included a broad overview of the results for the city.

Figure2. The breathtaking coast line of The Turkish Capitol City of Istanbul

In the water consumption area of WRE, the nexus of sustainability is invaluable. Without the environmental and societal sustainability, no project would be able to be economically sustainable. Being able to properly predict water consumption in a city as large as Istanbul is pertinent to being socially sustainable, because a water shortage would bring issues to the people that use the water. Water consumption, if too high and unaccounted for can also cause drought which would have a largely negative effect on the natural environment in and around the city. Anthropogenic draught has been seen occurring in California for many years. This has caused a slew of different issues but a prevalent social and economic issue was discussed in Nature magazine in an article titled “Water and climate: Recognize anthropogenic drought”. “Streams and wetlands are drying up, including the American River hatcheries of steelhead and Chinook salmon. More than 17,000 jobs have been lost, mainly in poor rural communities” (Nature, 409). Impacts of drought are dependent on the region, as in California the hatcheries suffered and thus caused economic and social issues, but in another region, it would be different depending on what areas the water services. If the water consumption in Istanbul was still being predicted with unsophisticated models as in the past, water scarcity could occur and cause similar issues to that of California. Istanbul is also a coastal City, on the Sea of Marmara off of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Drought within the city of Istanbul would cause major economic despair because a city cannot function without a proper amount of water being distributed. Because Istanbul is Turkey’s largest industrial city and therefor makes up most of the economic activity for the country, it would be detrimental to the entire country.


Aghakouchak A, Feldman D, Hoerling M, Huxman T, Lund J. Water and climate: Recognize anthropogenic drought. Nature. 2015;524(7566):409-411. doi:10.1038/524409a.

Investigators from Istanbul University Release New Data on Information and Data Systems [Prediction Of Water Consumption In Istanbul By Means Of Statistical Forecasting Models & Geographic Information Systems (gis)]. (2017, April 4). Information Technology Newsweekly, 77.

Leeuwen K, Sjerps R. Istanbul : the challenges of integrated water resources management in Europa’s megacity. Environ Dev Sustain. 2015;18(1):1-17.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Katherine Eckam makes this connection in Kinshasa, Congo. This current event was reported in Thomson Reuters international multimedia news agency on March 8, 2017, under the title, “Congo risks 50 percent drop in power output due to low rainfall”, by Aaron Ross. This is likely real news, based on Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences providing a lesson on environments of Africa, which included an article on low rainfall in Congo, by Dr. Tanya Furman at here.

The news about the lack of rainfall causing low amounts of power output relates to water resources engineering in the specific areas of hydropower. The key message in this article is the impacts of climate change range farther than just a decrease in rainfall. Precipitation has become a power and electricity source that Congo has become dependent on due to advances in hydropower technology. A lack of rainfall causes a decrease in water levels, which decreases water head and thus power. This lack of power would affect many aspects of Congo’s way of life and economy. In my critique of this news story, I think the article has missed important information on why exactly power would decrease if rainfall continues to decrease. They explain that Congo is dependent on hydropower for electricity but fail to explain what variables hydropower is dependent on. They also mention at the end of the article that there are plans to build a new dam on the Congo River but don’t explain how this dam will be able to provide sufficient power in lieu of the lack of precipitation while the existing dam is failing.

Figure 1. Grand Inga dam in Democratic Republic of the Congo. A new 4,800 MW dam on the Congo River as part of an envisioned 44,000 MW Grand Inga project could compensate for power outages.

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are the three key factors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s’ Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper addressing climate change. The paper sees reducing emissions from deforestation and use of hydropower for electricity as crucial key initiatives to contribute to sustainable development in the country, which includes Kinshasa, Congo. The shortage of rainfall in Kinshasa, Congo relates to environmental issues, because the scarce rainfall has caused the Congo River to reach its lowest level in more than a century. The country’s environment minister sees climate change as the cause of this scarcity. The mining chamber has reached out for the country’s energy sector to address the problem and find a solution for this environmental dilemma. According to the article, the government responded with plans to build a new 4,800 MW dam on the Congo River as part of a 44,000 MW Grand Inga project. Charles Kyona, president of the chamber of mines in Congo, reported the societal effects of this rain shortage in the article when he stated that the miners do not have the means to work effectively without the electricity produced by hydropower. This could mean the citizens of Kinshasa could face not only a deficiency of water and electricity, but losses of jobs as well. Hydropower relates to economic issues because the country is dependent on hydropower for nearly all its electricity (Figure 1). A lack of rainfall, and thus hydropower, could mean a loss of 350-400 MW of power of the 850 MW currently produced. Medard Katakana, an official of the National Electricity Company, told Isango (2017) of VOA news, “We fear that if we don’t have enough water, we would have to stop the turbines because they cannot function when the water is below a certain level.” This would affect not only the copper industry, which produces the most copper in all of Africa, but also all other businesses currently keeping Kinshasa’s economy afloat. The cause-effect between rainfall shortage and impact to the economy of Kinshasa occurs when there is no longer enough water to turn the turbines that generate more than half of the area’s power output, taking away the ability of copper industry miners to work effectively and leaving businesses without electricity.


Isango, Eddie. “DRC Faces Power Shortage Caused By Drought”. VOA. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Eleanor Clark, makes this connection in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This current event was reported in Time magazine, on Oct 13, 2015, under the title, “A Megacity Without Water: São Paulo’s Drought”, by Jon Gerberg. This is likely real news based on Nation Public Radio in November 2015 providing an independent report on this current event, at here.

This event is relevant to water resources engineering as it deals with water demand, pipe networks, and storm-water control methods. The focus of this report is on the need for infrastructure changes and repairs in Sao Paulo to combat the effects of increased extreme climate events. As a result of the drought and a poorly managed water distribution and pipe system, citizens of Sao Paulo suffer daily 12-hour water cut-offs. Sao Paulo is a city known for its abundance in freshwater resources but not all of that water is able to be used for drinking. For example, on the south of the city lies another reservoir, Billings Reservoir, that contain 20% more water than the Cantareira but is too polluted to be portable. Also, the drought in Brazil not only effected the water supply for human use but also for hydroelectric power plants that are used to supply 70% of the electricity for the country (de C. D. Melo D 2016). The article was missing information on the exact measures that were or are being taken to improve the infrastructural management of these reservoirs.

Figure 1: Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira reservoir

Economic, environmental, and societal issues are the three key factors that are used to define sustainability in Sao Paulo, Brazil Water Resource Management. In this case, water resource engineering is being used to address the water deficiency problem in the community through an analysis of the available freshwater and possible sources of pollution in Brazil. Design efforts have been made to create an interstate basin system that allows the basins in the area to feed each other and create an interactive water system for Sao Paulo and the 29 million people serviced by the Cantareira reservoir (de C. D. Melo D 2016). This results in increased water security for human drinking and energy use. As an area known as the Saudi Arabia of water, it is important to protect the integrity of water reservoirs in order to protect the cultural practices of the people. “Water is life.”


de C. D. Melo D, Scanlon B, Zizhan Z, Wendland E, Lei Y. Reservoir storage and hydrologic responses to droughts in the Paraná River basin, south-eastern Brazil. Hydrology & Earth System Sciences [serial online]. November 2016;20(11):4673-4688. Available from: Environment Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 6, 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Grace Anderson makes this connection in South Korea. This current event was reported in The Korea Herald on July 6, 2016, under the title “N.K. Unleashes Flash Flood from Dam Without Warning Seoul” by Shin Hyon-hee. This event was predicted by Bloomberg in the U.S. on July 4th, 2016, in an article titled “South Korea Fears Flooding From North Discharging Dam Water” by Shinhye Kang, since heavy rainfall occurred just days before North Korea released the dam, causing problems for South Korea and Seoul. The Daily Mail in the U.K. reported the event, sharing videos from Korean students of a library catastrophically flooding at Yonsei University in Seoul.

This event is related to water resources engineering because it affected South Korea’s capacity for flooding and stormwater management. The event happened after a significant rainfall event, which caused the Hwanggang dam on the Imjin River to fill up which motivated North Korea to release some of the water from it. This event highlights the “triple bottom line” aspect of engineering also, since politics clearly play a large role in the international sharing of water resources between North and South Korea. The two nations have an agreement from 2009 in which the North pledged to warn the South of any dam discharge, which they broke when they flooded South Korea unexpectedly in this event. South Korea immediately warned people living near the affected areas to evacuate, cautioning citizens of potential mudslides and dangerous flooding. Seoul’s roads, rivers, and canals were flooded since they were not built for such a sudden massive flood. This event was likely larger than any design flood, such as a 50-year, since it was essentially man-made and it also occurred shortly after a period of heavy rain so the capital was already managing a lot of stormwater. This is an important event because it exemplifies the important role that water resources play in politics. The South Korean military did not identify the sudden opening of the dam as a deliberate flooding attack, but the event surely heightened tensions between the two governments. The Korea Herald article states that the Unification Ministry in Seoul “urg[ed] Pyongyang [North Korea] to follow through on the agreement” that they made in 2009. A ministry spokesperson is quoted saying, “North Korea… should show that it’s willing to cooperate on little things like the water discharge.” Clearly water resources play an important role in more than just engineering. The Korea Herald did not include enough engineering information in their report of this event. Author Shin stated that the waterways in the Imjin River region widened from 80 to 280 meters, but no other relevant data was cited. To fully understand the impact of this event on Seoul and other impacted regions of South Korea, a flow or volume estimate or measured value should have been given.

Figure 1: Flooding in Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. This photo is a still from a YouTube video posted by a student after the catastrophic event.

North and South Korea have had a politically tumultuous relationship for a long time, and issues such as the North flooding the river into the South by releasing water from the Hwanggang dam near their Southern border are a symptom of that. This event relates to economic issues in that the municipalities of Seoul and other affected cities in South Korea had to repair and replace damage property and flooded roads, canals, and water treatment facilities. It relates to environmental issues because the canals and waterways were widened so greatly, which very likely had an impact on fish and other aquatic life habitats. This event relates to social issues because it destroyed farms, homes, businesses, and schools throughout the Imjin region of South Korea, including in the megacity capital Seoul. The article mentions that last May, North Korea did the same thing with the Hwanggang dam and it hurt fishing families in the South who lost their fishing gear and thus their livelihood.  I have found that the economic impacts on a mega city under flood conditions was also reported by Jennifer Rhodes in 1996, who wrote that “hydraulic events… account for more losses than any other natural disaster” and that the damage caused by flooding on highways specifically was not only problematic for the high repair costs, but also in the “lost productivity and commerce for local business and industry” (Rhodes, 1996). This cause-effect between flooding and economic impacts to cities occurs when floods overtop their floodplains or their rivers/canals, and the floodwater reaches structures that are unprepared for the depth and/or momentum of the flowing or still floodwater. This damage causes economic stress on the cities that must repair the affected structures, such as highways mentioned by Rhodes.


  1. The Korea Herald. “N.K. Unleashes Flash Flood from Dam Without Warning Seoul”, 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  2. Kang, Shinhye. “South Korea Fears Flooding From North Discharging Dam Water.” Bloomberg. N.p. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  3. Mallinson, Harriet. “Terrifying Moment Water Cascades Through University Library Ceiling”. Daily Mail. N.p. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  4. Rhodes, Jennifer. “Economics of Floods, Scour, and Bride Failures”. Hydraulic Engineering 1 (1993): n. pag. Web. 1 Apr. 2017.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental and societal issues. Our student Christopher Wren makes this connection in Paris, France. This current event was reported in The Local, on February 26,2014 under the title, “Tap water ‘polluted’ for 1.5 million in France“, by Joshua Melvin. A study supporting this information was published in Wiley Online Library and can be found at here.

Although clean drinking water is a staple for healthy living, it is becoming increasingly harder to supply even in well developed countries such as France. A large portion of the water supplied in France comes from aquifers beneath the ground surface. The over use of pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural regions around Paris have allowed these substances to leach into the groundwater supply. Also worth noting is the presence of natural, yet harmful substance, Selenium. Selenium contamination occurs when the ground water supply is drawn too low from over use. This problem stems from two issues related to WRE, water supply, and water treatment. Issues like these are far too common in the Water Resource Engineering field. As more cases are uncovered, the need for WRE is clear. This article did not however address any plans of action to address this issue.

Figure1. Spraying pesticides as seen here lead to groundwater contamination.

The rural agricultural region surrounding Paris is experiencing the worst water quality. The heavily populated city of Paris relies on these agricultural lands to provide food for the city. The lack of clean drinking water in these areas can lead to economic, environmental and societal issues for Paris. The contamination within the groundwater supply could spread to surface water and affect the local ecosystem. From and economic standpoint, France will need to spend more money for sufficient water treatment for the areas in need. However, the most immediate impact is the danger associated with drinking contaminated tap water. 1.48 million people who are drinking the contaminated water are at risk of health issues. More information on these risks can be found in the EPA’s report, “Nitrate and Pesticides in Ground Water” which can be accessed at this website.


“Tap Water ‘Polluted’ For 1.5 Million In France”. N.p., 2017. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Tournebize, J., Gramaglia, C., Birmant, F., Bouarfa, S., Chaumont, C. and Vincent, B. (2012), CO-DESIGN OF CONSTRUCTED WETLANDS TO MITIGATE PESTICIDE POLLUTION IN A DRAINED CATCH-BASIN: A SOLUTION TO IMPROVE GROUNDWATER QUALITY. Irrig. and Drain., 61: 75–86. doi:10.1002/ird.1655

“EPA’s Report On The Environment | US Environmental Protection Agency”. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.