… was a question posed to the LinkedIn Stormwater Solutions group last week. The author, Matt Barcus was wondering where civil engineers go when there is no engineering work available. Rather than highjack the intent of the thread I decided to write this post.
Matt’s question touched a nerve. I am genuinely bothered that civil engineers have chosen to sit out on a problem (and huge business opportunity) that affects a part of society that we helped to create.
The effects of unchecked post construction discharge are wreaking havoc on our urban infrastructure. We all understand the issues. As we develop and build out our cities, hydrology is changed. Land use changes, runoff curve numbers change, time of concentration decreases. Runoff volume, velocity and peak discharges increase. Shear stresses on the banks and beds of urban ditches and streams exceed those intended by their designer.
It has become apparent that the concrete and rip rap ditch lining and channelizing solutions of our past are no longer providing acceptable solutions. Not only do they simply kick the can down the stream, they do nothing for water quality. And if you haven’t noticed we are over 25 years behind meeting the 40 year old goals of the Clean Water Act.
My beef is that we civil engineers, who used to own infrastructure preservation, have given leadership of the topic over to environmental advocacy groups and landscape architects. And regulators are listening to them – happily accepting the advice and guidance from anyone with expertise that is willing to participate… not that there is anything wrong with that.
It appears that green groups see an environmental issue that can be solved with collateral positive benefits to infrastructure. Engineers seem to only see the more publicized environmental issues associated with water quality. Not our business, right?
First of all, infrastructure-related regulations affect civil engineers. Whine all you want, but if your interests aren’t protected during the rulemaking process, who is truly to blame?
Second, there is a very real expectation that civil engineers play a part in the improvement of the quality of our Nation’s waters. Read the Background section of my Five Pillars of Construction Stormwater Management article.
Thirdly, the American Society of Civil Engineers (our society) is telling folks that we actually care about the environment. Environmental stewardship and sustainability are written all over the Goals and Strategic Priorities of ASCE. We should dare to read them.
So, if we are infrastructure experts; AND there is a real expectation that we get better in matters of water quality; AND we really do care; does it make sense for anyone other than civil engineers to lead the current post construction runoff discussion? Forget the fact that in this economy it would be foolish for any profession to give up any part of its base, much less an area that it used to own outright.
Disagree? Let’s talk about it. Comment below.
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