By Jane Marsh
Construction workers and wastewater engineers have more complex obligations for combating drought amid the climate crisis. Precipitation volatility ignores historical trends, leaving once-hydrated regions with little water to spare.
These professionals have immense roles in making communities more resilient against the adverse effects of droughts with infrastructure and innovation.
Water scarcity requires construction and engineering workforces to consider how places can capture and reuse water when precipitation occurs. Rainwater harvesting protects against droughts and permits vital infrastructure and services, such as agriculture and residential utilities, to continue uninterrupted.
Common structures include dams, but they are contentious and potentially destructive to habitats. Additional safeguards include:
- Reservoirs: Releases water gradually for consistent access
- Watershed improvements: Distributes river flows evenly
- Aquifer recharge: Moves water from the capture structure to replenish underground stores with deep injection or surface infiltration
- Groundwater banking: Diverts surface water to aquifers
- Mulch basins: Soaks water through wood chips for gradual release into landscapes
- Irrigation upgrades: Includes structures like rain barrels, slopes and vegetation
These options diversify water access for on-property use or successful transport to high-need, more vulnerable areas.
Modern sponge cities are windows into water conservation and drought alleviation. The number of ways drought prevention appears in urban areas varies from permeable pavement to adding swales to parking lots. What are some other revolutionary strategies used by engineers and construction professionals?
Earthworks is an engineering method that moves soil to create slopes and ditches to divert flow or create small ponds. Analyzing water collection trends in a region will enlighten where earthworks would be helpful, steadying the pace of once stagnant or too-quick streams. It often synthesizes with terracing to reduce water loss from erosion and heighten rainwater capture quantities.
Erratic waterways prone to flooding might need dredging to manage level control and enrich the habitat to be healthier and more productive. Many construction and engineering strategies revolve around reuse. Still, if water stores are not tended to or healthy to start with, then the gravity of drought weighs more heavily on communities.
Gutters are also related to water capture but serve other purposes during droughts. Many residential gutters must be updated and more efficient. Construction workers should urge installing smart gutters and downspouts for improved water redirection while educating residents on keeping them clean and free of seams and damage.
Smart gutters could also filter out billions of kilograms of pollution for cities for millions of storm drains, alleviating strains on treatment plants.
Incorporating more cisterns and rain barrel potential for buildings is a minor yet influential way to curb waste while providing citizens more agency in their water independence. Without spouts, water will deepen the adverse impacts of drought by causing countless buildings foundational damage from waterlogging and leaks.
One solution to drought is introducing more water into the ecosystem, but how can engineers and treatment plants do so when there is little freshwater to work with? Experts are looking at brackish inland regions and saltwater as an answer.
Extensive development in the treatment sector is required to improve the effectiveness and cost of reverse osmosis desalination technology. Modular systems make this more accessible, but industry professionals must continue to reinvent conventional technologies.
Other runoff and wastewater developments increase the value of urban development. For example, drought-prone California revamped highways in 2015 to reclaim water from mud. Unique polymer application effectively treated it and introduced more water stores the population previously dismissed.
Drought prevention requires foresight from construction, wastewater and engineering professionals, even in areas previously not susceptible to it. Drought is becoming more common, and the lasting effects are heightening in severity. Softening the blow requires infrastructure, awareness and education to normalize proactive water usage habits.
Author Bio: Jane Marsh is the editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers green technology, sustainable building and environmental news.