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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.

A soft robotic stingray made from gold and rat heart cells. (Karaghen Hudson and Michael Rosnach)

Here’s a critter that would be a showstopper in your aquarium: By layering rat heart cells over a gold skeleton, scientists have built tiny swimming artificial stingrays that can be driven and guided by light.

These little ray-bots, described in the journal Science, may offer insight into building soft robotics, studying the human heart — and perhaps even building an artificial one from scratch.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In 2008, John Dabiri, now a professor at Stanford but then at Caltech, was teaching a course on the mechanics of animal swimming and flight when inspiration hit. The lesson of the day was on collective behavior – groups of fish and birds moving in unison. Dabiri wondered whether such behaviors might apply in other fields.

Scientists have long studied the role that free radicals play in freshwater because of how these charged compounds affect the chemistry of our drinking water. The special nature of these processes in saltwater ecosystems, however, has been poorly understood.

Now civil and environmental engineers at Stanford have discovered how salty free radicals in seawater act as a double-edged sword – sometimes they break down poisonous byproducts of algae but at other times they diminish the supply of beneficial algal byproducts.

Friday, April 29, 2016 -
12:15 to 13:15
Mackenzie Room, Huang Engineering Center, 3rd Floor


The Perry McCarty Distinguished Lecture Series

"Anaerobic microbial consortia: An enriching experience that started for me at Stanford"

Elizabeth Edwards, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Professor, Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto
Director, BioZone: Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering Research

This May, Stanford will open the William and Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center (CR2C), which is designed to test and accelerate the commercialization of promising technologies for the recovery of clean water and energy from wastewater.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Stormwater is starting to get some serious attention in California, as the state’s drought enters a fifth year.

Thanks in part to El Niño, rain has been surging through downspouts and gutters lately. And a lot of it: one storm in Los Angeles County, packing one inch of rainfall, means 10 billion gallons of water.

It's been months since state officials acknowledged lead, a neurotoxin linked to symptoms ranging from anemia to mental retardation, had contaminated the water system of Flint, Michigan. Still, the beleaguered city remains a flashpoint in a national discussion about race, poverty and environmental justice. In Congress, a debate on aid for Flint and other communities with tainted water drags on.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Since Professor Jeffrey Koseff gave his first Classes Without Quizzes lecture in 1999 at Stanford Reunion Homecoming, he has addressed alumni audiences near and far – on the Farm, in cities across the nation and in countries around the world.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Since Professor Jeffrey Koseff gave his first Classes Without Quizzes lecture in 1999 at Stanford Reunion Homecoming, he has addressed alumni audiences near and far – on the Farm, in cities across the nation and in countries around the world.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Millions of years ago, even before the continents had settled into place, jellyfish were already swimming the oceans with the same pulsing motions we observe today.

Now through clever experiments and insightful math, an interdisciplinary research team has revealed a startling truth about how jellyfish and lampreys, another ancient species that undulate like eels, move through the water with unmatched efficiency.


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