Diving into Water Issues

June 2004 » Feature Articles
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Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

With this issue, CE News kicks off a six-issue 2004 Public Works Series that will address potable water (June), stormwater management (July), transportation (August), wastewater management (September), and GIS and mapping (December). Additionally, the November issue will contain an article discussing sustainable design trends in the public works arena, as this is an emerging matter of importance to many industry professionals.

In preparation for this series, I asked participants in our annual salary survey to suggest topics of interest to them within each of the six sectors mentioned above. We had an unbelievable response to this request, and I thank all of you who participated. With this data, CE News is able to target upcoming editorial coverage even better. Our first article in this series, "National convergence in the new water arena" by John "Woody" Wodraska, national director of water resources for PBS&J, begins on page 34.

Wodraska shares the new mantra of the water industry: "Water is the oil of the 21st Century." He discusses how concerns over water supply are no longer just a western interest but one affecting the entire nation, deemed the new water arena. He tackles the big question: How will the water supply be managed in this new arena? He proposes that the solutions to today’s water issues lie in administration, allocation, and conservation.

Additionally, Wodraska digs into the intriguing topic of desalination, describing the treatment processes used to convert seawater to drinking water and the growing popularity of it as a viable water supply option. Communities, such as my hometown of Atlanta, which is more than 200 miles from the coast, are considering pumping treated seawater to serve metropolitan area residents. Once a suitable technique only for ocean-going ships, desalination is launching into a remarkably different future. Of course, technological strides still are needed to exploit the full promise of this treatment option. Wodraska addresses some of the challenges facing this emerging solution as well.

For me, a civil engineer who concentrated in water resources, Wodraska’s article, along with the constant influx of new findings and news related to water issues, piques my interest even more about this evolving and complex topic. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently released a report titled, "Water Quality in the Nation’s Streams and Aquifers: Overview of Selected Findings, 1991-2001," that I have found quite informative. The report is the result of more than a decade of study by USGS hydrologists who have studied water quality as it relates to three questions: What are the conditions of our nation’s streams and ground water? How is water quality changing over time? And how do natural features and human activities affect the quality of streams? The report, available along with many others at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov, exemplifies the complexity of water issues and uncovers interesting findings regarding water quality.

Additionally, with the data obtained from this research effort, the USGS can create models that simulate different scenarios regarding water quality and availability. With such great demands on our water supplies for power, irrigation, drinking water, and industrial uses, the availability of data and improved resources is good news for the various types of professionals engaged in planning the nation’s future water management.

To all of you who are dedicated to ensuring high-quality and ample water supplies for future generations, I thank you on behalf of your civil engineering peers for your courageous efforts. You have certainly chosen a professional focus that is decidedly intricate, politically heated, and technologically advancing, but most of all, essential.


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