Tag Archive: Water Resources Engineering

Water Resources Engineering connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Matthew Tamburro makes this connection here…

“Stainless steel in indoor swimming pool buildings” is an article written by Nancy Baddoo and Peter Cutler that was posted on the technical note about current events, and previous case studies of 1985. This water resources engineering news is classified in the hydrological domain due to its relation to water quality, and water related sciences.  The news article discusses a case study that happened in Uster, Switzerland related to the failure of a suspended ceiling due to water conditions. What happens is: the water is released into the air as water vapor via evaporation and released droplets due to turbulent waters.  This airborne water vapor is contaminated with chlorides that were present in water disinfectants and contaminants from bathers. Together these form chloramines, which are the main driving agents in steel corrosion. The water condenses and dries on the steel, causing it to pitt and eventually fail.

This current event relates to the larger context area of water quality. Water quality is an area of water resources engineering that can have impacts on an environmental, economic, and societal level. In this case, water quality was the indirect cause of a failure that resulted in the loss of life. Along with the societal impact of the loss of life, there are economical impacts in the sense that the entire roof failed requiring an entire new structure to be built. Water quality as a whole can have environmental impacts when in contact with an outside exposed aggressive environment.


Figure 1: This is an image of the failure that occurred


“Stainless Steel in Indoor Swimming Pool Buildings.” Technical Note: Swimming Pools. British Stainless

Steel Association, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2013.


Influence of Material and Processing on Stress Corrosion Cracking of Prestressing Steel – Case Studies: Technical Report. Lausanne: Fib, 2003. Print. Bulletin // International Federation for Structural Concrete, 26.

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

In the news entitled “Relief for a Parched Delta”, reported by the New York Times, on their April 16th, 2013 online news, the history and future of the Colorado River delta is discussed. This news relates to WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of the distribution of Colorado River water to the south of the American border. The Colorado River drained into the Gulf of California in the 1950’s. However, due to the increasing demand for water on both sides of the border, through dam diversions, the river no longer flows into the Gulf (Figure 1 and 2). A vast ecosystem that included dolphins swimming 60 miles upstream has been lost and replaced by non-native salt cedar. A treaty amendment between the United States and Mexico is poised to release enough water to restore the river’s flow to the gulf for a short time and to provide for more water to regularly flow down the river’s natural path. The initial burst will simulate the floods of the past and amount to approximately 35 billion gallons over one or two months by 2016; the base flow will be approximately 3.5 billion gallons per year. Based on my understanding of the WRE issue, the news story is accurate in reporting the importance of regular flooding to maintain the ecosystem and the water table. Research has shown that when stream flows become more intermittent, diversity and cover of herbaceous species decline. As groundwater deepens, diversity of riparian plant and landscape patches is reduced and species composition in the floodplain shifts from wetland pioneer trees to more drought-tolerant species (Stromberg et. al, 2007). However, despite the article’s optimism, it is unclear how the indicated amount was determined, especially since there seems to be no record of a historical baseline (Zamora-Arroyo, et. al, 2004)  or information on the water table along the corridor  (Cohen et. al, 2007). Therefore, chances are that the water might not reach to the Gulf. In my opinion, the news story lacks information on whether a comprehensive surface and groundwater model was used to identify the water needs or if there was any information on water budget to understand the discharge through the system.

Throughout the world water is an essential—and often scarce—resource. Vast ecosystems such as this and the Nile have been lost due to short-sighted attempts to sustain human environments. The issue in this news story impacts the broader WRE context areas of environment and economics. The environment context typically relates to the ecosystem benefits that can be reaped through the restoration of the riparian corridor, such as bank stabilization and water quality protection. It is also related to economics because such efforts will provide support and habitat for fish and wildlife and has the potential of income generation for agricultural and fishing communities in the area. In conclusion, this was an important news story. The environment and economies of downstream of dams depend on the cooperation of governments, engineers, scientists, and stakeholders to formulate reasonable measures to restore the rivers while preserving water supply upstream. This article addresses one such attempt and its expected outcome. According to The University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, brackish water at the river’s delta can revitalize the ecosystem (Taller, 2002). Without a vibrant ecosystem as well as a reliable source of water, the agricultural and fishing communities which grew to depend on rivers and their deltas cannot thrive.


Figure1. Dry Colorado River Delta (nytimes.com)

Figure1. Dry Colorado River Delta (nytimes.com)


Figure 2. By the time the Colorado River reaches Mexico, most of its water has been diverted by a series of dams. Here, a view of dry riverbed below the Morelos Dam, which is the last dam on the Colorado River. (nytimes.com)



Cohen, Michael J., Christine Henges-Jeck, and Gerardo Castillo-Moreno. “A Preliminary Water Balance for the Colorado River Delta, 1992 – 1998.” Journal of Arid Environments 49 (2001):35-48. Print.

Stromberg, J. C., V. B. Beauchamp, M. D. Dixon, and C. Paradzick. “Importance of Low-flow and High-flow Characteristics to Restoration of Riparian Vegetation along Rivers in Arid South-western United States.” Freshwater Biology 52 (2007): 651-79. School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, 2007.

Taller De Identificación De Prioridades De Conservación Del Delta Del Río Colorado. Rep. The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 22 Nov. 2002. <ag.arizona.edu/colorado_river_delta/images/proceedings.pdf>.

Zamora-Arroyo, Francisco, Jennifer Pitt, Steve Cornelius, Edward Glenn, Pamela Nagler, Marcia Moreno, Jaqueline Garcia, Osvel Hinojosa, Meredith De La Garza, and Ivan Parra. Mapping Conservation Priorities in the Colorado River Delta, Mexico. Rep. University of Arizona Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2004.


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

On March 22nd, a piece entitled Are African land grabs really water grabs? was published on CNN.com.  The article appeared in the opinion section of the site, but was written by three PhDs— all of whom are affiliated with universities and/or water related organizations.  The article describes the recent rush for agricultural land in Africa.  Investors are purchasing millions of hectares of land hoping to profit from production or increasing land prices.   These investors claim that this will stimulate the local economies and that the lands they seek are currently unproductive.  However, both claims are unfounded.  The authors assert that the true intention of the ‘land-grabbers’ is to grab water.  From the perspective of an engineering student, the article didnot shout any fallacies in terms of WRE; however, the article lacked some important content.  Who the investors are, where the land they’re acquiring is, and what exactly they intend to do on it are a few items the article fails to specify.

The most important lens through with to look at water-grabbing is social and environmental justice. Social justice and environmental justice are the theories of moral ‘rightness’ in the context of humanity and the environment, respectively.  Regardless of what investors do on the land they grab, the local people will be affected, and most likely negatively, from diversion, pollution, or otherwise.  Water’s ever-moving nature, however, makes it a legal complexity.  Who owns the water? The people who live next to it and have for decades?  Those who live upstream?  Those who pump the most? The jurisdiction of water is very often unclear, and water-grabbers use this to their advantage, walking the fuzzy line between legality and illegality. The article provides an example of how private actions had drastic effects on the health and safety of people downstream.  In documentaries like Blue Gold and Tapped, we’ve seen that private companies have fatally affected municipalities in the US by over-pumping.  If it can happen here, it can happen in Africa.  We can only hope that the local people and the environment aren’t exploited for the precious resource.

The geopolitics of the water justice movement[1], an article published in Peace Conflict & Development provides a more comprehensive explanation of the legal and social issues surrounding fresh water and the conflict between transnational corporations and global citizen/NGO movements.  The article centers on a critical question, one that should be taken from these articles and considered:  Is water a fundamental right or a tradable commodity?



Adam Davidson-Harden, Anil Naidoo and Andi Harden,  The geopolitics of the water justice movement Peace Conflict & Development, Issue 11, November 2007 at http://www.peacestudiesjournal.org.uk

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Leah makes this connection here with the article Estuary Cleanup in San Juan Bay which involves economical, societal and environmental issues that surround the San Juan Bay.

A Look at a Historic Day for Puerto Rico’s Tarpon-Filled Urban Lagoons, Estuary cleanup nets 30K pounds of trash and Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation Participates in Puerto Rico Estuary Clean Up are three articles that describe the environmental problem in the estuary and the major cleanup that occurred March 16, 2013.  These articles were published in Caribbean Business magazine, Guy Harvey Magazine and Sports Fishing Magazine. These articles discuss the water quality of the estuary therefore belonging in the hydrologic domain. The San Juan Bay is an estuary located next to the Luis Munoz Marine Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico. It has been and is currently used for sports fishing. Some of the fishes that are targeted are tarpons. Unfortunately, this estuary has been the target for dumping trash from the neighbors and more trash has been estimated to drift from the rivers that flow into the estuary and lagoons from the highlands to the south. After Sports Fishing Magazine came to fish in the estuary and wrote an article about how dirty the estuary was, locals and private companies organized a major cleanup. Around 500 volunteers collected around 30,000 pounds of trash. It is a significant amount of trash but the estuary is still nowhere to being clean. This cleanup attracted many private companies to contribute for further investigation and cleaning to preserve the estuary. These articles do not go into major detail about water resources engineering for two reasons: the first-because the writers might not have the expertise to write a full report with the right scientific knowledge and the second- because it is a completely new project that will need further investigation in order to complete a full and detailed WRE report. The article should have included a list of nutrients and contaminants in the estuary rather than just saying trash, and they should have further describes the plan that was in action for the cleanup. Then again, because this is a new project, not much can be expected because not much is known and the general public who read the magazines might also not comprehend if the article went in depth of many other things.

The San Juan estuary attracts tourists for fishing. Therefore it has a great influence on the island’s economy. Being that it is very dirty and polluted it attracts fewer tourists reducing the economic value of the estuary. Environmentally it is affecting the water quality of the estuary affecting the living organisms in the bay and reducing the amount of species available. This has a societal impact as well because polluted waters affect the quality of the drinking water of the surrounding neighborhoods. It also affects the quality of life of those living close to the area and finally the value of the land. If the estuary can be restored it would be beneficial to society, the economy and most importantly the environment. Living organisms will thrive and create a nicer environment that will attract more tourists and will increase the economic value associated with the estuary. Clearly, cleaning up this estuary is only going to bring benefits to the economy, the society and the environment it just requires a little effort, but it will definitely pay off.


Figure 1: Photograph of people involved in the cleanup and the trash they have found


Figure 2: Toy Jeep found in the cleaning process.


Figure 3: Bags full of trash in the cleanup


CB Online STaff. “Estuary Cleanup Nets 30K Pounds of Trash.” – Caribbean Business. Caribbean Business, 16 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

Fins, Tony. “Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation Participates in Puerto Rico Estuary Clean Up.” Guy Harvey Magazine. Guy Harvey, 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

Olander, Doug. “A Look at an Historic Day for Puerto Rico’s Tarpon-Filled Urban Lagoons.” Sport Fishing Articles, Photos & Gear Reviews. Sports Fishing Magazine, 16 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

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

The news entitled “The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill” was reported by the New England Aquarium (NEA) in their July 15, 2010 online news.  The article relates to the hydrology domain of WRE and the specific issue of water pollution.  This news article reports on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred from April 20 to July 15, 2010.  This 87 day oil spill was the worst in United States history and it was estimated that between 1.5 – 2.5 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf daily.  The spill was dangerous to animals such as sea turtles, dolphins, whales, birds, and fish.  The oil can get in the respiratory or digestive systems of these animals making it difficult to breath and in the case of ingestion the effects of the oil can be fatal.  In addition to harming the animals in the ocean the oil spilled caused damage to coastal wetlands in the United States.  These wetlands make up half of the US’s coastal wetlands; other wetlands in similar situations have been negatively affected by oil spills.  From my understanding of flow I know that a large hole must have blown out from the pipe and the oil must be pouring out very rapidly.  It is estimated that up to 2.5 million gallons per day spilled out, that is a rate of almost 30 gallons per second.  Due to this the hole in the pipe must have been sizeable and required more than a simple fix, which is supported by an article in ABC news; a 150,000 pound cap was placed on the well head in this extreme effort to stop the oil from leaking out (Blackburn).  The source is also credible saying that the oil can be detrimental to wildlife in the gulf.  Oil can damage animal’s immune systems, respiratory systems, and much more (Effects).  One area that the article did not cover was how the pipe burst and oil leak started or how it was resolved.

Water resources engineering is a wide field that affects the environment, the economy, and society.   The main effects of this oil spill were environmental and economic.  The extent of the effects of this oil spill have yet to be seen, but it may very well affect marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and in the coastal wetlands of the southern United States for many years to come.  In addition to its damaging effects on the environment the spill also impacted the economy.  Billions of dollars of oil were lost in the spill, doing millions of dollars of damage.  The Daily Green’s website provides information as to how the oil spill has affected and will continue to affect the environment and economy.  The oil spill was a threat to life of 400 different wildlife species and over 30 species of birds; it has also compromised 2,700 square miles of a total 7,000 of the Louisiana coastal marshes (Gerstein).  The spill destroys habitats and in many cases will kill the animals directly.  The Daily Green reports that as of June 14, 2010 the oil spill had cost BP 1.6 billion dollars, and that was a month before the spill had ceased.  After the spill 12,000 Louisiana residents filed for unemployment, mostly in the southern part of the state where they were directly affected by the oil spill (Gerstein).  The cause-effect between oil spills and damage to the environment and economy impact is simple – when oil spills occur, especially on a level such as this, large parts of the environment and wildlife are endangered and the economy takes a hit because of the money that is being washed away.

Figure 1 – Oil spilling into the ocean after the leak.  The contamination of the water has many negative impacts for the species that depend on the clean water to survive.

Figure 1 – Oil spilling into the ocean after the leak. The contamination of the water has many negative impacts for the species that depend on the clean water to survive.

Figure 2 – Darkened area of the map shows zones of large amount of surface oil in the Gulf of Mexico.


Blackburn, Bradley, and David Muir. “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Well Integrity Test Shows Oil Stopped.” ABC World News. ABC, 15 July 2010. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <http://abcnews.go.com/WN/gulf-oil-spill-bps-cap-success-oil-stops/story?id=11173330#.UVxPjnfqG6C>

Gerstein, Julie. “The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill by the Numbers.” The Daily Green. , 14 June 2010. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-facts>

“The Effects of Oil on Wildlife.” Austrailian Maritime Safety Authority. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <http://www.amsa.gov.au/marine_environment_protection/educational_resources_and_information/teachers/the_effects_of_oil_on_wildlife.asp>

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

In the Feburary 16, 2012 Environmental Science & Technology news article,  “Decline of Acid Rain Enhances Mercury Concentrations in Fish”. This Water Resource Engineering article is a hydrology issue dealing with the distribution of pollutants and other water quality issues. In Norway and in other parts of Europe there has been a spike in mercury concentrations in fish despite an overall decrease in acidic deposition. There has been an increase in lakes’ water color and Total Organic Carbon concentrations, this is known to facilitate in the transport of heavy metals, like mercury in water.  This story accurately represents the water resources engineering fact that coal-fired power plants are a major source of pollution for mercury in fish (National Resources Defense Council). Also it accurately represents the fact that mercury cycles through the environment and is highly affected by organic carbon content (USGS).

The article left out data, and other graphs which would have FURTHER supported their claims.

The issues with increasing levels of mercury coupled with decreases in acid rain concentration are seen all around the world. The authors describe cases in Europe, but other cases in the Adirondacks have been cited as well. This also has a lot of effects on the environment. The environmental impacts are related to fish, wildlife, and other biotics in the ecosystem both in and around the lakes. The attached article relates to environmental impacts because it discusses how concentrations of mercury in fish are rising primarily due to increases in Total Organic Carbon (TOC). These increases in mercury can move up the food chain and eventually be toxic to both humans and other wildlife. Author Marla Cone describes how mercury levels in the Pacific Ocean will rise by around 50% in her article “Big increase in ocean mercury found; study predicts more human threat from fish”. TOC sediment from formally acidified lakes has been exported into the lakes due to decreased levels of ions like hydrogen (higher pH). As a result this has caused a large increase in the mercury concentrations in local fish. This relationship can be seen in Figure 1 below which shows the site location as well as an increasing trend in mercury concentrations in fish.

Figure 1: This image was found in the article. It represents increases in lake water TOC and how that has also caused significant percentage increases of Hg in fish.


National Resources Defense Council http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/sources.asp

Cone, Marla “Big increase in ocean mercury found; study predicts more human threat from fish” http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/ocean-mercury-increasing. Environment Health News

Hongve, D.; Haaland, S.; Riise, G.; Blakar, I.; Norton, S. Decline of acid rain

enhances mercury concentrations in fish. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, (5), 2490-2491.

U.S Geological Survey http://water.usgs.gov/wid/FS_216-95/FS_216-95.html

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

The news article, “How the world’s saltiest pond gets its salt,” was posted on February 7, 2013 under the News and Events section of Browns University’s website. This article features a new discovery in the unique hydrology and water supply of a pond giving it salt concentration and allowing it to exist in the extreme cold and dry environment of the McMurdo Dry Valley in Antarctica. To help better understand the hydrology of this unique pond 16,000 photos were taken within 2 months to monitor the pond and determine the sources of water and salt feeding into it. The photographs were then correlated with data taken from measurements on and around the site. After comparing the photos to ground based measurements they found that a pulse of fresh water from snowmelt entered the pond after the daily peaks in temperature. A second source of water and also salt was observed flowing through a small channel of loose sediment on days where the relative humidity spiked. This find shows that the original theory that the salt in the pond was from ground water, was incorrect and the salt water flowing into the pond came from a process called deliquence where the moisture in the air is absorbed by the salt in the soil. Salty soils and ridges like the ones formed by the salt water flowing out of the soil have been found on Mars (Davila, Duport, Melchiorri, & Janchen, 2010). This study finds that it is most probable that the high salt concentration was not coming from the ground water under the pond by using the water balance equation, however the researchers did not mention the methods for estimating flows other than the visual and meteorological data (Hayashi & Kamp, 2007).

The cost of transporting a drill to Mars currently makes it infeasible to test for life and water below the surface of the planet. If water is discovered on surface of Mars in there is a chance that we can find life on Mars without having to drill down below the ice layer (Space.com, 2011). From an economic standpoint it makes sense to look for conditions where water may exist on the surface of Mars. This new evidence of Mars having similar hydrology to the area feeding into Don Juan allows future trips to Mars to be able to target areas like Don Juan in their search for life and water. This discovery doesn’t only impact where we might find water on Mars it also improves our understanding of hydrology and the natural movement of water on earth.


Figure 1: Don Juan and Time Lapse Camera

Works Cited

Davila, A., Duport, L. G., Melchiorri, R., & Janchen, J. (2010). Hygroscopic Salts and the Potential for Life on Mars. ASTROBIOLOGY.

Hayashi, M., & Kamp, G. v. (2007). Water Level Changes in Ponds and Lakes: The Hydrological Process. Elsevier Inc.

Space.com. (2011, 08 04). Water on Mars: Scientists find strongest evidence yet. Retrieved 04 15, 2013, from Mother Nature Network: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/space/stories/water-on-mars-scientists-find-strongest-evidence-yet

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

The news, Phantom Springs Cave Becomes Deepest Underwater Cave in the U.S.” was published on the Caving News website on January 23, 2013. This article relates to hydrology of droughts and how they affect speleology and aquifer depletion, as well as hydraulic management of depleting resources, water and oil. This article describes an expedition to a desert aquifer in west Texas, where cave divers measured a new depth of the cave to be approximately 140 meters; this new measurement makes Phantom Springs Cave the deepest known underwater cave in America! The entire extent of the cave is still unknown, but it is certain there is a very deep source of fresh water underneath one of the driest regions in the U.S. (USGS, 2013). The article focuses on the findings of the cave, but does not detail the larger aspect that is important to water resources engineers. The primary objective of the dive team was to obtain hydrologic data to contribute to an ongoing study that intends to make a genetic connection between Texas and Mexico aquifers, so the team collected water quality data, conducted dye tracing, and set sediment traps in hopes of finding rare species. The aquifer and surrounding land is currently owned by the Bureau of Reclamation because the site is home to two unique ecosystems, both inside and outside the cave (Bowen et al., 2013). 

Figure 1. Diving gear outside of the Phantom Springs Cave Entrance

The current drought in Texas threatens Phantom Springs because Texans get the majority of their water from aquifers, and this water scarcity is a major societal and economic issue. In addition to groundwater extraction, Texas’ dependence on oil is negatively affecting the status of the protected property due to more than 10 confirmed natural gas wells between Phantom Springs and the nearest town of Pecos (Iliffe, 2013). The threat of hydraulic fracturing is very high because the process requires an abundance of water, and the used and polluted water is generally disposed into nearby wells (“Hydro-Fracking”, 2013). Groundwater flow can transport solutes to nearby water sources, which puts the cave at risk of contamination (Wurbs et al., 2002). The drought has also caused the water levels inside the cave to drop, and any pumping of upstream or downstream connections can cause the water level to possibly drop below the water table. This would cause the cave to breakdown, which would destroy the unique system present in the cave, prevent scientists from further studies, and cause sinks on the surface that can destroy nearby landowner’s properties. 

Figure 2. Spatial representation of Texas drought presented by the NDMC, USDA, and NOAA


Bowen, Curt, Jason Richards, and Andy Pitkin. “Phantom Cave 2013.” ADM Exploration Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.

Drought Monitoring. USGS, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.

“Hydro-Fracking.” Citizens Campaign for the Environment. N.p., 10 Apr. 2013. Web.

Iliffe, Thomas. “Phantom Cave Science.” ADM Exploration Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.

“Phantom Springs Cave Becomes Deepest Underwater Cave in the U.S.” Caving News. ADM Exploration Foundation, 23 Jan. 2013. Web.

 Wurbs & James, 2002. Water Resources Engineering, New Jersey, Prentice Hall.



Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues.Our student Samantha Steele makes this connection here…
The February 28th, 2013 article “Sahara Desert Dust Affects California Water Supply” was posted in the Los Angeles Times website online (http://articles.latimes.com/).  This news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and specific issues of weather prediction and water supply planning.  This scientific study was inspired by two similar storms taking place in 2009 on the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Both storms carried the same amount of water vapor, but one produced 40% more precipitation than the other.  Upon further investigation it was discovered that ground samples of the rain and snow, from the storm with more precipitation, showed an abundance of Asian dust.  A science team collected ground data in the Tahoe National Forest and simultaneously collected atmospheric samples from air measurements.  Data analysis showed that when dust and biological particles are present, above the Sierra peaks, there was more precipitation.  This is the first study to directly document that dust from as far away as the Sahara, Taklimakan and Gobi deserts can create substantially more precipitation in the Western United States.  The windblown material is acting as a seed for atmospheric ice, which is forming a large amount of precipitation.  This research was part of a three year field study called CalWater, investigating the influences on California rain and snow.  This news article has scientific merit and calls on known meteorological facts.  Jay Hardy comments on the concept of ice nuclei in his article titled, “Microbial Showers…The Rain-Making Bacteria”, mentioning that bacteria as well as dust and soot can serve as the seeds around which ice is formed.  He goes on to describe how water molecules attach to the crystals making them increasingly larger until they fall to the ground as rain or snow.  After finding numerous news sources reflecting the same information, (including but not limited to: Climate Central, The Earth System Research Laboratory, University of California, San Diego News Office and the Associated Press), I am confident that this story accurately represents WRE facts.  After reflection on this article I believe it left out some critical implications of the precipitation increase.  It noted Guido Franco’s comment that “It may counteract some of the effects of a warming climate”, but I would consider that a quite optimistic and ignoring the potential harmful effects of this weather phenomena.
Water resources engineering is an interdisciplinary field, in which hydrologic and hydraulic systems are designed and managed in order to maximize the potential benefits and minimize the adverse impacts that could occur to any global, economic, environmental or societal issue.  This particular article has implications in global and economic contexts.  This story reflects the need for global weather pattern analysis in order to address the adverse effects that can take place on a local community from stimuli introduced halfway across the world.  The economic implications can be extremely devastating if all of the water storage facilities need to be re-designed for the unforeseen increase in precipitation, or it could create a temporary monetary alleviation to residents of California who have historically had problems with water supply.  An article by Lauren Morello published February 28th, 2013 explains that the Sierra Nevada provides one-third of California’s water and generates about 15 percent of the state’s electricity hydropower.  As increasing amounts of precipitation fall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the design and management of water storage and water supply facilities need to be adapted.  In closing, this WRE issue has numerous effects within context area of the Sierra Nevada and all of California, but can also affect other western mountainous regions in the United States, or under similar circumstances around the globe.


This graphic shows the path of aerosols that reached California in 2011. Circled numbers indicate locations in which dust was captured in CALIPSO satellite images.


Frank Gehrke, chief snow surveyor for the California Department of Water Resources, takes a snow measurement at Phillips Station in the Sierras (photo: Brant Ward, San Francisco Chronicle)

Works Cited

Boxall, B. (2013, February 28). Sahara Desert dust afftects California Water Supply. Retrieved April 9, 2013, from Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/28/local/la-me-water-dust-20130301

Broder, K. (2013, March 5). Scientists Find Asian, African Dust Afftects California Snowfall and Water Supply. Retrieved April 9, 2013, from All Gov California: http://www.allgov.com/usa/ca/news/unusual-news/scientists-find-asian-african-dust-affects-california-snowfall-and-water-supply-130305?news=847258

Hardy, J. (2012). Microbial Showers…The Rain-Making Bacteria. Retrieved April 9, 2013, from Hardy Diagnostics: http://www.hardydiagnostics.com/articles/Ice-Forming-Bacteria.pdf

Morello, L. (2013, February 28). Dusty Spring in Asia, Africa Can Inrease Snow in California. Retrieved April 9, 2013, from Climate Central: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/african-asian-dust-influences-snow-in-california-study-finds-15665

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

The article, Chinese dare officials to swim in polluted rivers, was published by the associated press on February 20, 2013. The WRE issue involves the hydrology aspect of water quality. China has experienced an economic and industrial boom since the 1960’s. However environmental regulations have not progressed as fast as industries have in China. In Rui’an City in the province of Zhejiang, a local businessman offered about $32,000 to the local environmental protection chief to swim in the polluted river (Tang, 2013). The businessman said that a rubber shoe factory located upstream has been dumping wastewater into the river for years, and he attributes this to the high cancer rate in the area (Tang, 2013). The environmental bureau claims that most of the waste in the river is from residential use (Tang, 2013). The importance of this issue can not be diminished; water quality control is an issue we face on a daily basis. China is a country in development with rapid economic growth and societal improvements. However, as in most developing countries, China’s regulations on dumping and water quality standards have not been enforced consistently. The vice minister of water resources, Hu Siyi, states that 20% of all rivers in China are too toxic for human contact, and 40% are extremely polluted (Tang, 2013). There must be more of an effort made towards environmental regulations during the development of fragile countries that are doing anything to help their people. We have to start transitioning towards sustainable development, to help these people in need while protecting the environment.

In a broader context this water resources issue affects every society and government on the planet. This initial dare sparked numerous other dares around China. In particular, a farmer from the township of Banqiao in the Zhejiang Province offered a similar dare to an environmental official (Clifford, 2013). The farmer posted his dare online, and soon after he was visited by about 40 men and women sent from the government; his house was trashed and he was beaten (Clifford, 2013). The farmer had similar complaints of toxic industrial dumping causing illnesses within his family (Clifford, 2013). The issue of water quality standards for industrial dumping are that industries must be held accountable for not following standards, and the government has the largest authority over these industries. However when the government does not enforce the standards—rather they keep citizens from speaking out against polluting—it will be hard to enforce anything. In order for society to improve water quality standards and regulations industries, governments, and citizens have to work together to educate and speak out against dumping. Water quality is an important aspect of hydrology and it affects the lives of every person on the planet.


Figure 1: Workers cleaning away rubbish and debris along a river in the city of Rui’an, Zhejiang province on February 18, 2013


Figure 2: Chinese farmer Chen Zuqian was beaten up by about 40 men and women after he dared an environmental official to swim in the heavily polluted river in the township of Banqiao, Zhejiang Province.


Clifford , Coonan. “Chinese farmer beaten for daring official to swim in filthy river.” Independent 27 Feb 2013, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.

Tang, Didi. “Chinese dare officials to swim in polluted river.”Associated Press 20 Feb 2013, n. pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.