Launch Slideshow

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Borrowing Goes Bust

Borrowing Goes Bust

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    Tight credit is prompting many departments to postpone new projects and temporarily suspend others.

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    From left: Hoa Nguyen, Melika Roshandell, Jan Kleissl (assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering), Anthony Dominguez, Michael Sankur, Mandana Farhadieh, and Yoichi Shiga. Not pictured: Wen-Han Liu, Samer Naif, Andrea Tan, Roger Huang, Anders Nottrot, Hared Ochoa, and Long Sun. Photo: Dong Kim, UC San Diego

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Sunil Sinha

The Virginia Tech associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is leading an effort to develop a national database of underground water pipes. The Internet-based geospatial database would allow users to review interactive maps to monitor and maintain the existing system, creating a pipe condition index and condition model.

University of California, San Diego, undergrads

A group of undergraduate students designed, built, and deployed a network of five weather-monitoring stations to save energy. The stations helped locate the sunniest rooftops on which to expand the university's solar-electric system; determine when to open dampers and use cost-free ocean breezes to cool buildings; and measure soil moisture to activate irrigation sprinklers based on when athletic fields become dry rather than irrigating on a fixed schedule.

Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant

After closing in 2005 due to design problems, the nation's largest seawater desalination plant is back on line, pumping up to 25 mgd. Through a public-private partnership, Tampa Bay Water enlisted American Water-Pridesa to lead the remediation, including redesigning the reverse osmosis membrane cleaning system; converting the dual-stage sand filtration system to single-stage; and adding diatomaceous earth filters, screens to remove incoming debris from source water, a variable-speed capability cooling water pump, rapid mixing of treatment chemicals, and conditioning prior to filtration.

The Associated Press

After five months of research, the news outlet's National Investigative Team announced that 41 million Americans are drinking water “contaminated” with the byproducts of medicines and other unregulated chemicals, prompting local media across the country to question how “safe” constituents' tap water is. A tricky PR gauntlet for public providers.

Transportation Research Board

In 2007 the board published “Guidelines for the Selection of Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts” (NCHRP Report 577), which evaluates the effectiveness of 42 deicers. The report includes a free downloadable decision-making tool that allows managers to compare different purchasing and application scenarios by varying the “weight” of: cost, product performance, the effects on infrastructure, and the impact on the environment. To download the tool go to http://pubsindex.trb.org and perform a key word search for NCHRP Report 577.

U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation

To further reconstruction efforts in Iraq and to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between Iraqi and U.S. engineers, the U.S. Congress-authorized nonprofit organization selected five Iraqi engineers to intern with U.S. universities and private-sector engineering firms. They will return to Iraq and serve as liaisons between the two countries' governmental ministries, educational institutions, and engineering firms.

Susan Warner

If it can kill germs on surgical instruments, it can handle solid waste. That's the theory the diversion manager of the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority is testing with a 2-ton autoclave, which basically steam-cleans garbage. Because municipal solid waste is high in cellulose, she's sharing the results of the authority's first conversion-technology project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is studying cellulose-to-ethanol conversion.

U.S. Congress

Republicans and Democrats reached across party lines to override President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. H.R. 1495 authorizes hundreds of water-resources and flood-control projects, including Everglades restoration in Florida and post-Katrina rebuilding efforts in Louisiana. It was the first veto override of the Bush administration, and the first water-resources bill to pass in seven years.

U.S. Geological Survey

USGS scientists completed one of the first nationwide studies of nitrate trends in groundwater, concluding that agricultural fertilizers have increased nitrate contamination.

Eric Wahlberg

The Brown and Caldwell project manager developed the Flocculated Suspended Solids (FSS) test, which has been adopted by the Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association; the Total Suspended Solids (TSSnon) test, which helps quantify optimal primary clarifier performance; and the Wahlometer, an apparatus and method for controlling and optimizing the performance of the activated sludge process by measuring parameters such as settling, compacting, and flocculating characteristics.

Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board

In a landmark ruling that is expected to heavily affect stormwater control in western Washington, the board ordered the Ecology Department to require “low-impact development” building techniques (i.e., rain gardens and porous pavements) to control what scientists argue is the largest pollution threat to Puget Sound: rainwater runoff. In developing rural areas, the ruling is expected to eliminate the use of curbs and gutters in favor of low-impact stormwater BMPs such as street-side green spaces.

Amy Zander

The director of Clarkson University's Interdisciplinary Engineering and Management Program is reshaping the curricula to incorporate environmental considerations into decision-making. The program now prepares engineering students at the Potsdam, N.Y., campus to take into account social responsibility, corporate citizenship, and environmental consequences in business and technological decisions.

Source: Transportation Research Board