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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2007

T C 357 • Water, Water Everywhere

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43415 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
RLM 7.112

Course Description

This class will consider issues of water in society such as drought, flooding, water quality in the ecosystem and impacts of human activities, and drinking water quantity and quality. Historical examples will be used to highlight these issues. Topics include the following:

Water policy: Regulations on water, and the bases of those regulations:
Water ownership, water rights, wastewater discharge permits, drinking water regulations
Acceptable Risk: the role of scientists/engineers and the general citizenry in setting standards and regulations

Social engineering through water engineering
How engineered systems (ports, dams, reservoirs, water supply, wastewater collection/ treatment) influence development and human activity.

Technical content: (Appropriate for Plan II students, whether double majoring in a technical field or not)
Municipal wastewater treatment plants: What do they do and how do they work?
Drinking water treatment plants: What do they do and how do they work?
Contaminants of water: why are certain selected chemicals and microorganisms considered contaminants?

About the professor

Desmond Lawler is a professor in the Dept. of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering and specializes in drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. He has received several teaching awards at the University and is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. His prior teaching has all been devoted to technical classes in the College of Engineering; you can teach him how to teach in Plan II while he teaches you why it matters how water flows in a river and why you should not waste your money on bottled water. He is currently completing a graduate textbook on Physical-Chemical Treatment Processes for Water and Wastewater.

Grading Policy

Research Paper:

Each student will choose a river, any river of interest to them. They can choose one of the great rivers of the world (Nile, Amazon, Rhein, Mississippi, etc.) or one much less famous (e.g., a river near their home). It only needs to be large enough that one can find the information needed to write the paper.

Each student will write his or her research paper on the chosen river but will have a wide choice on the details of the research project. Some examples are given below, but this list is meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive. Different projects could emphasize:

- social history: how the river was (or is) responsible for the development of a city or region.
- ecology: how the river supports a particular species or set of species (aquatic or non-aquatic) in a somewhat unique way, or how the ability to do so has been compromised or increased in recent years.
- water quality: how the river is contaminated in a way that limits its utility for drinking water or other positive uses, or how the river's contamination has been cleaned up or limited to improve its water quality in the past 30 (or other) years.
- history: how the river shaped history (similar to the first, but from a much earlier time). For example how Native Americans used the river in the US or how the Euphrates shaped early culture.
- engineering: how the river has been changed by engineering (dams, levees, locks), why the change was done, and the effects that the change has had (or will have) on any of the above types of topics. Famous examples include the Columbia River in the western US and the Yangtze in China (Three Gorges Dam), but examples on small rivers abound as well (e.g., the Highland Lakes formed by dams on the (Texas) Colorado River, including Lake Austin and Town Lake).


Lowrance, W., Of Acceptable Risk: Science and the Determination of Safety. (1976)
Tripp, N., Confluence: a River, the Environment, Politics, & the Fate of all Humanity (2005)
Postel, S. and Richter, B., Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature (2003)
Twain, M. Life on the Mississippi
Hesse, H., Siddhartha
Maclean, N. A River Runs Through It

Additional readings yet to be decided. Some notes to be prepared by the professor will also be used.


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