Earth Science Week

This week is Earth Science Week! Since 1998, the American Geosciences Institute has utilized this week to foster a better understanding and appreciation of the Earth. This year’s theme is, “Water Today and for the Future” emphasizing the importance of understanding, conserving, and protecting this precious resource. We interviewed CORRE engineer, Sara Veith Kearns, to discuss the role water conservation plays in the world of engineering.  

Your degree focuses on Environmental Engineering, what drew you to this field and how have you been able to use it?
Originally, I wanted to study Environmental Engineering to work on providing clean drinking water to underserved communities. While in college I was introduced to construction sites, and I saw firsthand how engineers can help take care of our waterways. The combination of being able to hold contractors accountable in the field, work on the development of future construction in design, and protect wetlands during delineations was a perfect fit.

What sediment and erosion control Best Management Practices do we use on projects and why are they important?
Most projects have a silt fence to keep sediment contained while construction is taking place. This can be incredibly useful when working close to sensitive areas, like a wetland, to ensure no damage is done.

We also use turbidity barriers when bridges are being replaced to keep sediment from entering the waterways. This important component of bridge construction allows water to keep flowing and not get stagnant, while preventing any sediment or debris from entering the waterways.

We also use temporary seeding if an area has been stripped of topsoil and it will be more than two weeks before it will be finished. It’s also common practice to have inlet protection for every catch basin installed since water from our storm systems usually drain directly to surface water. 

“Originally, I wanted to study Environmental Engineering to work on providing clean drinking water to underserved communities. In college I was introduced to construction sites, and I saw firsthand how engineers can help take care of our waterways.”

In what ways does stormwater management engineering assist in water conservation? ​
Stormwater management engineering assists in water conservation by managing the amount of run-off that is released into waterways, helping keep our waterways clean. Runoff is the excess water that flows across different land surfaces. Different surfaces cause different pollutants to be carried with the water, which can lead to waterways becoming undesirable for the animals that live in the water, unsafe for human recreation, and also prevent the water from being able to be treated for drinking water use. 

What is Section 106 and how do we comply with it?
Section 106 is all about calculating the amount water that will be discharged from rain events into surface water. We comply by completing the necessary permitting for this, when applicable, during our designs. This is an important legislative piece that helps protect waterways from being polluted due to construction. 

What other practices do we use to assist with water conservation?
At CORRE, we perform wetland delineations. By correctly defining these areas we help with protecting water habitats for different ecosystems.