Effective management of watersheds must address the growing pressures caused by development on the natural function of rivers and floodplains. Planning for development and accommodating beneficial uses of water resources, while maintaining and enhancing the natural functions of these water resources, requires managers to consider many factors. These include water-related disasters such as floods and droughts, ensuring a sustainable water supply, protection and remediation of water quality, management of river sediments and soil erosion, balancing competing demands on supplies, and protection and restoration of riparian habitats.
Water shortage, water pollution and flood impacts are among the most urgent problems in river management. The number of flood disasters worldwide has increased significantly in recent years. While this may partly be due to a changing climate, the additional utilization of flood plains for transportation corridors, housing, and agriculture also results in a reduction of the natural capacity of catchments to attenuate runoff.
Dams and reservoirs store water for power, potable water supply, and irrigation, and are also used to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of floods and droughts. At the same time they may have negative environmental and social impacts. There is therefore an increasing demand for detailed and accurate assessments of the environmental impacts of these facilities, and for optimizing operation of existing dams to minimize the adverse effects while maximizing the benefits.
It is challenging to maintain quality water supplies to existing communities, let alone planning for the future growth. Much of the infrastructure utilized in the collection, treatment, and distribution of water is aging and requires assessment to determine the best replacement and rehabilitation strategies. Clean, efficient, and reliable water supplies ensure the sustainability of a community, with improved human health and economic viability. Wastewater planning is equally important for a community’s long term success. Efficient collection, treatment, discharge, and reclamation require water managers to leverage the best available technologies.