Water circulates through our atmosphere and regulates our climate, flows through streams and rivers to sustain valuable ecosystems, fills the lakes that store and transfer water to our homes, and returns to our atmosphere to begin the process again. Through the study of hydrology and hydraulics, humans have strived to control this vital resource and optimize its economic, environmental, and social benefits. Engineers study hydrology and hydraulics for many applications, such as: to predict how much water will be available to irrigate our crops, to advise communities on water conservation during droughts, to provide hourly estimates of river and lake levels, to design infrastructure systems that protect communities from flooding, and to restore aquatic ecosystems.
In this technical elective course, students learn about hydrologic processes and our ability to measure them, and then how these processes are often simplified and represented in hydrologic and hydraulic models. Students apply what they learn in class to the Wake Forest University campus stormwater infrastructure system using real data sets and software that is commonly used by engineering professionals, called PCSWMM. This course project was modified and published as a HydroLearn module. The course also engages guest lecturers from the private sector, local government, and a non-profit organization, providing multiple stakeholder perspectives on water resources valuation and management. The course emphasizes discussions on the uncertainty ingrained in hydrologic data and models, and the importance of responsible modeling and effective communication.