Research into water issues neither dry nor all wet

Zach McPhee, Tirupati BolisettiCivil engineering student Zach McPhee discusses measures to reduce stormwater run-off with professor Tirupati Bolisetti during a display of research posters Wednesday in the Centre for Engineering Innovation.

Installing green infrastructure in residential neighbourhoods can reduce stormwater run-off, mitigating the effects of climate change on sewer systems, says Zach McPhee.

His project modelling the benefits of “low-impact developments” in a Sault Ste. Marie subdivision was one of about 30 by graduate students in engineering on display Wednesday in observance of World Water Day.

McPhee, a master’s student in civil engineering who completed undergraduate studies last year (BASc 2016), compared several design options: permeable pavement for driveways and walks, landscaping features to retain water, rain barrels at downspouts, and infiltration trenches which store excess water underground.

“The ideal is to bring a developed site back near its natural hydrological conditions,” he says.

He used the geographic information system ArcGIS to analyze computer models predicting shifts in precipitation patterns due to climate change.

“The project was very useful,” says McPhee. “It’s a real-world example using industry-standard software.”

Professor Tirupati Bolisetti says the research posters tackled a wide range of problems of public interest.

“We’re looking at water supply, water quality in the Great Lakes, and the effects of climate change on water infrastructure,” he says. “New engineers should be exposed to the problems and thinking about approaches to address them.”

Saranya Jeyalakshmi studied agricultural engineering in her native India before coming to Windsor last fall to pursue her PhD under the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee scholarship program. Jeyalakshmi will couple her initial investigations of the local watershed to a similar site in India, and has already learned from the experience.

“I came to know the cultivation practices in the area and how the nutrient loadings from agricultural areas are affecting the Great Lakes water quality,” she says. “Now I got the opportunity to mingle with the community and share my ideas.”