Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Research

Computational Environmental Hydraulics

Computational Environmental Hydraulics involves the formulation, development and application of methods used to predict the movement of surface waters, including rivers/streams, lakes/reservoirs, estuaries and other surface waters. In this program, emphasis is placed upon aspects of hydraulics impacting sediment transport and water quality.

Computational Environmental Modeling

Surface Water Quality Modeling deals with the formulation, development and application of numerical models used in the simulation of water quality conditions in surface waters. Environmental Process Modeling uses the same concepts from biology, physics, chemistry, to develop a better understanding of processes used for removing or stabilizing pollutant constituents often found in wastewaters coming from communities and industry. Water quality modeling provides the linkage between the sources of pollution and the instream water quality of a given waterbody for use in the analysis and management of surface waters.

Sedimentation Engineering

Sedimentation Engineering is the use of operational methods and constructed works in concert with natural processes to cause an economically and environmentally sustainable sediment distribution. It considers individual projects within the context of a regional morphological system and in terms of their effects on the region.

Environmental Engineering Processes and Operations

This comprehensive field looks at using physical, chemical and biological processes to synergistically mitigate the impacts of pollution on the environment. While much of the work is focused in removing pollutants and enhancing water quality, it is a field that provides an foundation for developing Innovative methods for biofuels production and recover and biological fuel cell development coupled with nutrient removal and biomass generation. It requires an understanding of biological process modeling and optimization, sustainable systems, the water-energy nexus, and advanced and alternative treatment. These concepts can be applied to production of potable water, treatment of wastewaters generated by storm evens, municipalities, and industry and help address the management of solid and hazardous wastes.

Examples of our research

There is a wide variety of projects completed or underway within the Environmental and Water Resources Group of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Bagley College of Engineering. The following summarizes some of projects.

Following are a list of other projects completed, underway, or in development:

  • Evaluation and prediction of sediment and phosphorus loads
  • Empirical approach to calculate rate of stream bank erosion
  • Evaluation of Sedimentation Management Alternatives at ports
  • Tennessee – Tombigbee Waterway:
    • One dimensional hydraulic model
    • Sediment budget modeling of pools
    • Pseudo steady-state water quality
  • Meridian residential development: Three dimensional water quality and hydraulic model
  • Sediment transport modeling and analysis, including HEC-RAS applications
  • Demonstrating and enhancing risk assessment tools to determine efficiency and cost-effectiveness of innovative nutrient reduction strategies
  • Improving TMDL and Waste Load Allocation Permit Limits
  • Determination and application of new sediment diagenesis input parameters for water quality models

Biological Fuel Cells uses bioelectrochemical systems  to investigate synergistic cooperation of wastewater treatment and desalination with high value bioenergy recovery for current investigation. Biological and emerging contaminant removal from water and wastewater sources using novel processes is another area of research. Biofuel production from algal biomass grown in wastewater medium and oils/grease from waste sources under microwave and ultrasound techniques is pursued for higher net energy benefits. Simultaneous extraction and conversion of lipids/oils into biodiesel and reducing the process energy and environmental foot print is the focus of our research. Finally, developing simple design tools for sustainable (low-cost and low energy) wastewater management in rural and disadvantaged communities is another area of our research.

Risk Assessment work is attempting to test, validate and develop components on existing risk assessment tools, to demonstrate their accuracy in assessing the magnitude, extent and risk of soil and nutrient losses in the Mississippi Delta. Demonstrate the utility of risk assessment tools to facilitate decision support for water quality and quantity improvement and cost-effectiveness of conservation practices at field and watershed scale in the Mississippi Delta. Qualitative tools being evaluated include: P-Index, N-Index, and WQlag. Quantitative tools under examination for this need include: APEX, NTT, RUSLE2, N-Index, APLE. The result will help coordinate and advance phosphorus management in the southern region and provide for consistent water quality results across physiographic regions

Port Sedimentation Solutions MSU is working to find engineering solutions to chronic port sedimentation problems on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. MDOT has funded the project with the objective of reducing or eliminating maintenance dredging of the state’s public ports. Students, led by graduate student Judy Haydel, have been collecting and analyzing data from the Tenn-Tom in order to characterize sedimentation processes, and that information will be used to formulate engineering solutions.

Big Sunflower River TMDL MSU has been funded by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to assist in the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads for the Big Sunflower River. Several segments of the River are presently listed as not meeting water quality standards due to organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen and nutrients or sediments/siltation. For each listed section, the Clean Water Act requires the development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The TMDL is a pollutant specific allowable load, including both point and non-point source loadings, designed to restore and maintain the quality of those listed segments. The project is a cooperative effort by the MDEQ and MSU Departments of Civil Engineering and Plant and Soil Sciences.

Big Bear Lake TMDL MSU has been funded by the Big Bear Municipal Water District, Bear Lake, CA, to provide technical assistance in developing Total Maximum Daily Loads for Big Bear Lake. The Lake is considered impaired due to excessive nutrient loads and siltation.

Watershed Management For The Istanbul,Turkey MSU is working on strategies to protect the supply of water taken from the Omerli Reservoir. This reservoir supplies over sixty percent of the water used in Istanbul, Turkey, though it is over 40 km from the urban center and is from it by the 2-km wide Bosphorus. With potable water quality degrading over the past decade, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has funded this project with the objective of analyzing the nutrient loads coming into the reservoir and defining ways of reducing this load. Other issues being addressed in this project include infrastructure assessment, water supply augmentation, and land use management. In addition, the state water authority (ISKI) has requested the research team add a review of emergency response and system protection issues to their scope of work. The research team consists of engineering researchers at Marmara University in Istanbul, a consortia of Mississippi engineering consultants (the Mississippi Engineering Group, MSEG), and the Mississippi State Department of Civil Engineering. Dr. Dennis D. Truax and graduate students at Mississippi State are currently working to use remote sensing technologies to delineate watershed, identify land use and land cover, and map the flow path followed through existing buffer zones by the nutrients into the reservoir. The water management plan developed from this study will be used by ISKI as a blue print for the other reservoirs in its water supply network, and will be forwarded to USAID for application as a design for engineered solutions in other countries.

St. Louis Bay Water Quality Modeling MSU Civil Engineering and Plant and Soil Sciences departments are cooperating to develop a nutrient and dissolved oxygen model for the St. Louis Bay. The model couples watershed, estuarine flow, and water quality components to simulate the impact of land-source nutrient loadings on St. Louis Bay nutrient dynamics. The model product will assist the Mississippi Deparment of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in developing guidelines for future water quality monitoring and management in the St. Louis Bay region. The project is funded by US Environmental Protection Agency and MDEQ.

DEQ Dissolved Oxygen Model The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is currently using a dissolved oxygen model for developing waste load allocations and Total Maximum Daily Loads for organic enrichment. This model was originally developed by MSU. The objective of this project, funded by the MDEQ, is to update and modernize the DO model for continued use. The project is a collaborative effort by the MDEQ and MSU Departments of Civil Engineering and Computer Science.

Sediment Diagenesis Modeling MSU is working with Tetra Tech, Inc. and the U.S. Environmental Protection agency on the development of a sediment diagenesis model. A sediment diagensis model relates the loadings of organic materials to sediments, and the decay of those organic materials, to the subsequent release of nutrients and sediment oxygen demand. This diagenesis model will be incorporated in an existing surface water quality model (WASP) commonly used for the development of waste load allocations. The initial application of the coupled models will be to Mobile Bay.

Harpeth River studies MSU is working with Tetra Tech, Inc. and the U.S. Environmental Protection agency on the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads for the Harpeth River, TN. The River, located outside of Nashville, is listed as impaired (does not meet water quality standards) due to organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen and nutrients.

Transportation Responses to Increased Trade Projected trade increases from Latin American have the potential to overload the region’s ports, highways, and railways. The Bagley College of Engineering and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station are working together to develop tools that will enable local, state, and regional authorities to plan intermodal infrastructure improvements that will handle the increased freight flow economically and with the least environmental impact.

Port Wharf Designs MSU is working with Applied Technology Management, LLC, to develop wharf designs for the port of Charleston, SC, that will provide safe mooring and unloading while minimizing siltation in the mooring areas and adjacent waters. They are using a numerical model of Charleston Harbor to examine alternative wharf orientations and locations.

Hydrologic, Hydrodynamic and Water Quality ModelingPersonnel from the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) and the Department of Civil Engineering at the Mississippi State University are conducting collaborative research in the computational simulation of surface water hydrodynamic and water quality processes. The research is focused upon (1) improving applied software tools through advances in numerical methods and in the mathematical models of relevant physical, chemical, and biological processes and (2) building an application team that can develop useful computational models of study areas that are significant to the State of Mississippi and the region. Particular emphasis is placed upon the simulation of hydrologic, hydrodynamic and water quality processes at the watershed and coastal estuary scale. Computational models that have been extensively validated with site-specific data can be an important complement to field monitoring programs and can significantly enhance our ability to understand the specific environmental system. The research is being supported financially by state and federal agencies, private industry, and MSU.

The utilization of models can reduce the quantity of field data required to develop an understanding of an environmental system saving both money and time. Models can be effectively used as a predictive tool to assess the impact of actions within the study area. Common uses of developed and validated computational models include (1) land management decisions, (2) evaluation of best management practices (BMPs), (3) evaluation of environmental remediation alternatives, (4) assessment of impact upon fisheries, and (5) development of waste load allocation plans. Such applications can assist agriculture, aquatic, and industrial businesses working in concert with regulatory agencies to develop cost-effective methods to meet environmental standards in a relatively short amount of time and with less cost to the public.