Emphasis On Water Management

By Mary Beth Erskine


TAMPA, Fla. (June 3, 2010) – Asmaa Medhat Yousif Kamel is a civil engineer in Cairo, Egypt. Employed by the Water Resources Research Institute, she focuses on one of the most urgent water-related issues facing her country – flash flooding. In an effort to enable the government to help citizens protect themselves, she analyzes data to predict rainfall runoff, but the greatest challenge in doing so, she says, is the shortage of available data.


That’s the primary reason why Kamel is participating in an international master’s degree program in hydroinformatics available through UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, The Netherlands. She hopes to learn about the latest information and communications technologies and simulation modeling techniques that will help her to gather greater amounts of accurate data.


Kamel joins water management professionals from around the world enrolled in the program – civil engineers such as Marwa Moustafa Abdallah Wally, who works for Alexandria Port in Egypt, Phan Manh Hung, who is employed by the Institute of Coastal and Offshore Engineering in Vietnam, and 9 others from Ethiopia, Colombia, Mongolia and China. Together, they comprise the UNESCO-IHE contingent that recently launched a two-week study of Florida beginning with a two-day visit to Tampa Bay. The water course is a collaboration among USF, Florida Earth Foundation and other water partners.


USF is the only university in the United States that has an existing memorandum of understanding with UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education to pursue opportunities to collaborate on research and education. As part of that unique and growing partnership, the university, through the Dr. Kiran C.Patel Center for Global Solutions, welcomed the students and their two IHE professors, Dimitri Solomatine and Biswa Bhattacharya, as they began their Florida study with two days of visits throughout Tampa Bay.


Led by Daniel Yeh, assistant professor in the College of Engineering and USF’s primary liaison with UNESCO-IHE, the group began the first day with a tour of the USF Marine Science program to learn about capabilities in remote sensing and water monitoring in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, with emphasis on current efforts in tracking the oil spill in the Gulf. The group saw several examples of the combined use of engineering and science for data collection and interpretation, and ultimately decision-making for water management. Next on the agenda, Lindsay Cross, scientist with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, shared her organization’s ongoing efforts to protect Tampa Bay, including nitrogen control. In the afternoon, the group visited the City of Largo’s water reclamation facility to learn about the use of reclaimed water for water conservation and environmental protection.


The second day began in the Alumni Center’s Traditions Hall with a breakfast reception, followed by an overview on water management in the Tampa Bay area. The session included presentations by Bobby Lue, Brooksville regulation director from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Tampa Bay Water’s Christine Owen, water quality assurance officer, and Amanda Rice, project manager. 


Following the morning briefing, participants spent the remainder of the day studying Tampa Bay’s water infrastructure with site visits to the Tampa Bypass Canal, the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant, and the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in southeastern Hillsborough County before departing for the Riverwoods Field Laboratory in Highlands County. From there, the group travels to the Everglades and West Palm Beach, the headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District, and will meet with other partners, including the US Army Corps of Engineers. 


According to Yeh, the theme for the Tampa Bay portion of the course emphasizes the area’s strength when it comes to water management: “Sustainable Water Resources Management through Alternative Water Supplies.”


“It took many years since the Water Wars to get the region to this point where alternative water supplies are used in integrated water resources planning to protect the environment,” he said. “We still have some ways to go, but what has been accomplished and the lessons learned should definitely be shared with the rest of the world.”


According to Yeh, the USF-IHE relationship is important because it allows water managers from around the world to learn from the unique urban water laboratory of Tampa Bay. “At the same time, through IHE, USF has access to a UN institution whose applied water research has extensive global impact.” 


USF’s relationship with UNESCO-IHE has also made it possible for USF students, for the second consecutive year, to study water management in The Netherlands. In May, a six-student contingent arrived in Delft for a 12-week water research program. The USF students will spend the summer examining the Dutch flood mitigation efforts, climate change adaptation, and conducting their own research on clean water technologies related to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.


Readers can follow the students’ journey and research at http://usf-unesco-ihe.blogspot.com/. Profiles of the students participating in the program can be found at http://ihe.eng.usf.edu. In addition, the students have initiated a YouTube channel where over the summer they will be interviewing Dutch and American professionals and IHE faculty and staff on key water issues.