Monitoring and Modeling Water Systems

The history of human civilization is a history of engineering our water environment.  We drill wells, build dams and aqueducts, irrigate farmland, use water for cooling energy plants.  We alter our water – quantity, quality and distribution – as we attempt to understand, manage and ultimately control this critical resource.  Our activities and interactions with our water environment often produce negative consequences – for people and the ecosystems we inhabit.   Engineering our water environment has led to significant improvements in our quality of life (e.g., chlorination of drinking water reduces waterborne illness).  We must build on our engineering successes and understand our engineering challenges in order to meet the need for sustainable water under the pressures of growing populations and changing climate conditions. To engineer systems that enable sustainable water for humans and ecosystems will take a paradigm shift in water engineering practice.   Continuing to engineer our water systems using existing technologies and methods will not produce the state-change we need to move from a patchwork of engineered systems (for water availability, drinking water treatment, wastewater treatment) to an adaptive, resilient water infrastructure that will move our society into its sustainable future.

Research in Dr. VanBriesen’s group has focused on monitoring (via sensors) and modeling of water systems (built and natural).  Field studies with sensors placed in engineered and natural systems as well as laboratory systems have yielded advances in understanding of use and placement of chlorine sensors in drinking water, conductivity surrogate sensing for TDS in rivers, and modeling watershed changes that affect managed reservoirs.