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The Water Environment

Ensuring a sustainable water environment for people and natural ecosystems requires the development of well-informed environmental policies and well-designed systems. To achieve this goal, we employ a holistic approach that draws on inputs from a wide variety of disciplines.

This research field includes the departmental programs in Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology, and Environmental Engineering and Science.

Our faculty and post-doctoral researchers collaborate with colleagues in Stanford’s schools of Engineering, Earth Science, Medicine, Business and the Humanities and Sciences and with academics around the world, including scholars and engineers in China, Switzerland, Singapore, Japan, Tanzania, Haiti, Chile, Denmark, Norway, France and Australia.

Effective solutions, new approaches

The water environment includes coastal zones, rivers, lakes, estuaries, groundwater, soil water and even the atmosphere as part of the hydrologic cycle. It is now clear that the management of the water environment for sustainable human benefit requires the development of environmental policies promoting ecosystem health and human safety, with accordant management and operation of facilities and systems.

Extending traditional boundaries

Traditionally, civil and environmental engineers have focused on studying parts of the system or designing specific components of an engineered system, such as studying the dilution of effluent achieved through an ocean outfall in order to design an appropriate diffuser.

Our attention now extends beyond the performance of individual components to the performance of whole systems and the interaction of different systems with each other — for example, the influence of large water project operations on estuarine and coastal fisheries.

Developing knowledge tools

Given the complex problems facing the planet and the need for efficient and cost-effective strategies, we are focusing our efforts on the scientific, engineering, economic, social and political aspects in an integrated and comprehensive way. We are leveraging our strengths in building multidisciplinary teams that may include, for example, experts in social sciences, biology or fisheries.

Within major research thrusts in areas such as water supply and treatment, coastal-zone problems and groundwater we are emphasizing the development of comprehensive analytical, numerical and observational tools that enable us to characterize the physical, chemical and microbial environment as well as to translate this knowledge into design principles and management policies.


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