Population growth and economic development continue to place increasing stress on global water resources, stresses that stem primarily from rising consumptive demands for limited supplies and increasing contaminant loads to natural waters. Students doing research in the area of water resources engineering and management seek sustainable solutions to these challenges using a variety of computational and experimental approaches designed to produce results that can provide substantive guidance to decisionmakers.
Students in our group work on projects that are motivated by concerns over increasing water scarcity and declining water quality. The rising cost of developing new water supplies and society’s growing intolerance of the environmental impacts of large-scale supply projects (e.g., reservoirs) are making it more difficult for communities to meet growing water demands. Water scarcity has economic implications for a variety of societal activities, imposing disruptive financial risks that motivate the development of more innovative tools, institutions and management systems. Population growth also leads to lower water quality as greater contaminant loads are imposed on surface and groundwaters. These loads can come in the form of biological, organic or inorganic contaminants, and can originate from either point (e.g.,wastewater treatment plant) or nonpoint (e.g., stormwater runoff) sources. In many cases, a better understanding of the nature and behavior of these contaminants is required before improved methods for managing water quality can be developed.
Whether the challenge is water scarcity or water quality, management strategies that integrate consideration of both engineering and economic principles are required if society is to manage its water resources in a manner that is both efficient and environmentally sustainable. Research in our group draws heavily from both disciplines to develop creative solutions to society’s environmental challenges.