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Graduate Program in Civil Engineering

Water Resources Planning & Management

Water Resources Engineering

Water resources engineering includes tasks related to water supply and conservation, water cycle management, water control, water excess management (storm water and flood control), and much more.  Current research projects in water resources engineering at Michigan Tech cover a broad range of topics, some of which are discussed below.  In addition, the water resources engineering program at Michigan Tech provides students the option of earning graduate degrees (M.S./Ph.D.) in either Environmental Engineering or Civil Engineering.  Graduate fellowships and assistantships are available to qualified students.

Modeling and Analyzing the Use, Efficiency, Value and Governance of Water as a Material in the Great Lakes Region Through an Integrated Approach.  This is a collaborative research project of Yale University and Michigan Technological University, funded by the National Science Foundation Materials Use: Science, Engineering, and Society (MUSES) program.  Water is at the foundation of our economic, societal, and environmental well-being, and nearly every product in global commerce depends on water for its production and delivery to the marketplace. However, water traditionally has not been considered a material characterized by integrated analyses to quantify flows and stocks, opportunity costs, and full valuation (i.e., social, environmental, and service costs) through its myriad of uses.  This leads to an undervaluing of water as a finite resource – an oversight that could lead to even greater water shortages as a result of increasing pressures and poorly informed decision-making.

The project focuses on the Great Lakes region due to its large volume of available freshwater (but low rate of replacement), high economic impact, complex governance issues including an international border, and increasing competition for water allocation among industrial, agricultural, municipal, recreational, and ecosystem needs, as well as existing and future threats to water quality deterioration. Our frameworks for assessing the value of water as a material can be extended to other regions in the U.S. and the world for informed water use decision-making and policies promoting a sustainable future. 

Evaluating Impacts of Climate Variability on Flood Magnitude and Frequency.  The current techniques for flood frequency analysis (FFA) in use in the United States assume annual maximum floods are stationary, meaning that the distribution of flood flows is not significantly affected by climatic trends or long-term cycles (i.e. decadal variations).  Observed trends in stream flows raise concern as to whether or not this assumption is valid.  This project considers how the current FFA procedures might be modified to account for nonstationarity in flood records due to climate variability.  Estimators of flood risk which reflect the strength and phase of climatic patterns such as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Oscillation and Northern Atlantic Oscillation are under consideration.  The impacts of land use/land cover changes on the magnitude, frequency, and timing of flood flows are also being investigated. 

Effect of Precipitation on Sediment Transport in Watersheds. As global climate change progresses, there may be significant changes in the amount of precipitation in watersheds around the world.  This change in rainfall can lead to a change in the amount of sediment transported in rivers, thus having an effect on erosion and blockage of harbors or river intakes.  Research is being performed to quantify the change in sediment transport rates under changing precipitation conditions.  In addition, research is being done to reduce erosion at hydraulic structures such as gates in rivers in conjunction with the South Florida Water Management District. Hydrodynamics Lab

Water Distribution System Energy Reduction.  Various ways of reducing the energy use in city water systems are being studied.  Methods include reducing water usage, tank diameter and water levels, and pump operating characteristics.  Reduced energy usage can reduce the carbon footprint significantly since cities use a large amount of electricity to run their pumps.

The Graduate Program. Graduate students working in water resources can pursue degrees in either Environmental Engineering or Civil Engineering, along with more than 50 other graduate students engaged in water resources and environmental engineering research. The Michigan Tech Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering has active research programs in hydrology and water resources, water chemistry and microbiology, environmental fate and transport, and physical and chemical treatment. Collaborating faculty in the Departments of Geological Engineering & Sciences, Social Sciences, and Forestry provide a broad range of coursework and research expertise in areas such as earth systems modeling, environmental decision making, and natural resource management. Students using GIS or remote sensing technology may also be affiliated with the Michigan Tech Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences Institute.  Students addressing social, economic and environmental aspects of water use may be affiliated with the Sustainable Futures Institute, the Center for Water & Society, and the D80 Center for Prosperity by Design.

Typical courses for an MS degree with a focus in water resources may be found here:


For more information, contact Prof. David W. Watkins


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College of Engineering
Michigan Technological University
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
870 Dow Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan, 49931 - 1295, USA
Department Phone: 1-906-487-2520
Department Fax: 1-906-487-2943
Department E-mail: cee@mtu.edu

Last Modified:
October 20, 2011

Copyright © 2011
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

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