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Hydrologic Engineering Can Help Solve Water Crises Around the World

Many people worldwide don’t have the luxury of turning on household faucets for instant access to clean, fresh water. Similarly, some families face increasing risks to homes, roads and essential services due to severe flooding. The steps to solve global water crisis challenges vary depending on the most imminent current and anticipated threats.

However, hydrologic engineering efforts can cause meaningful headway in tackling many issues that result in poor water quality or make people more vulnerable to living with too much or too little of the liquid.

Hydrologic engineering encompasses preserving and managing water resources through thoughtful designs, data-backed decisions and awareness of future risks. It influences how people handle flood control, irrigation, water treatment and more. It influences how people handle flood control, irrigation, water treatment and more. Here are some specific ways hydrologic engineering principles and innovations could address many water-related issues.

Mitigate Flood Risks and Maintain Practical Irrigation Options

Scientists have already warned more dramatic floods are among the probable outcomes of climate change. For example, one study in California showed extreme precipitation events in the state are already twice as likely due to the changing climate. Then, by the end of the century, extreme storm sequences could cause up to 400% more runoff.

Now is the time to think strategically about practical and effective solutions for minimizing flood risks. Progress in that area could solve global water crisis situations for people in areas under threat.

The results of a 2021 study revealed that dams could be vital for managing flood risks in locations under increased threat due to climate change. Researchers ran flood simulations in areas located downstream from dams. The outcomes indicated that households residing there were 15% less likely to experience once-in-100-year floods during the 21st century.

The team noted that although dams currently control about half the world’s river systems, and there are more than 3,700 other major ones under construction or planned, continued new operations and infrastructure developments must occur to reduce climate change’s effects.

Elsewhere, a Stanford team found that dammed reservoirs could store more than 50% of the water needed to irrigate crops. If fully utilized, such an approach could feed 1.15 billion people. However, the researchers cautioned against building new dams, citing alternatives with fewer socio-environmental risks. For example, they suggested using small dams for water harvesting and improving soil moisture management in agricultural fields.

Enhancing Processes and Opening Possibilities With Innovative Options

People are increasingly aware that they must pursue innovative approaches to solve global water crisis circumstances. Sometimes that means installing permeable pavements that can absorb water rather than facilitate pooling. In other cases, it requires encouraging farmers to use moisture sensors on their fields to avoid overwatering.

Thoughtful, sustainable infrastructure can increase climate change preparedness and elevate public safety. Hydrologic engineers must consider current needs while anticipating the future.

Sometimes, that involves investigating how to overcome known shortcomings. For example, while looking for new ways to combat water scarcity, researchers pointed out that wastewater recycling, cloud seeding and desalination techniques have been less successful than many hoped.

They suggest building new infrastructure to harvest water vapour from oceans. Their analyses centred on proposed structures that were 210 meters wide and 100 meters high. The associated estimations showed this approach could provide fresh water for people in subtropical regions.

In another instance, researchers turned their attention to better ways of finding groundwater sources in arid regions. They relied on satellite imagery and geospatial techniques, plus stayed mindful of specifics such as rock types, rainfall and drainage. The current methods of finding groundwater involve drilling, which is costly and inaccurate.

The research indicated that numerous rock fractures, low drainage and gentle slopes characterize the best groundwater recharge zones. This process also uses remote sensing and widely accessible technologies, which makes it a less expensive choice for finding groundwater sources. The team — who carried out their work in Australia — envisioned creating satellite maps to indicate the likelihood of finding groundwater in specific areas.

Improve Resilience By Studying Reservoir Levels

Statistics indicate more than 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries. Hydrologic engineering professionals are particularly interested in alleviating that issue in areas currently experiencing it. The insights learned from those efforts could solve global water crisis conditions for people who may encounter them in the coming years.

In one case, researchers learned that storing more water in Brazil’s reservoirs could ease water and energy shortages in the country and make food production more resilient. They discovered something counterintuitive to the well-accepted knowledge that river flow influences weekly and monthly reservoir levels:

When they looked at reservoir levels across an entire year, the team realized they were more impactful on river inflows in Southeastern Brazil. Moreover, some of their findings highlighted the need for a region-specific approach to hydrologic engineering.

Hydropower reservoirs lessen the river flow below dams in most places around the world. However, Southeastern Brazil becomes extremely humid during the rainy season. The researchers discovered that reservoirs have a minimal impact on river flow if humidity levels are near 100%.

Additionally, one of the most important discoveries was that a full reservoir makes precipitation significantly more likely. One statistic indicated that during October — one of Brazil’s drier months — the reservoir level could contribute to as much as a 112% increase in river flow.

The research also identified some specific steps to maximize energy and water resources in the country. Some recommendations were to fill smaller reservoirs before larger ones and operate the hydropower plants in cascade with a capacity factor of 50%.

Moreover, the study suggested allowing the reservoirs to rise could increase Brazil’s hydropower reliance on its existing dams. That outcome would reduce CO2 emissions and electricity expenses, plus minimize the likelihood of drought affecting the country’s key crops, such as soybeans and coffee.

Solve Global Water Crisis Problems With Hydrologic Engineering

These are only some of the many fascinating outcomes that can occur when people apply their hydrologic engineering knowledge to address real-world problems. Even the work still restricted to labs could prove instrumental in broadening safe water access while curbing flood risks.

As people diligently attempt to solve these problems, they’ll gradually learn things that could positively change the world, its inhabitants and its infrastructure. Staying motivated while facing these daunting challenges is essential due to the ripple effects caused by hard work and eventual success.

Water is an essential resource. These are just a few of the ways people can harness it to reduce unwanted impacts, particularly during times when climate change is increasingly damaging in its effects.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over six years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at
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