Clean Water & Energy: A Balancing Act

Ongoing research addressing water pollution problems and science-based solutions for cleaner, renewable sources of energy are corollaries for a sustainable environment. As increased demands are placed on finite water resources to supply drinking water, public health is threatened and food production is reduced. When water resources diminish, water needs for energy production come into conflict with water demands essential to life. The result is a balancing act.

Without energy, water needs cannot be met; and without water, domestic energy cannot be generated. Predictably, with energy development and expansion comes the risk of water contamination and toxicity. When known and emerging contaminants are discovered in drinking and surface waters and require removal, energy consumption increases, water usage increases, water resources dwindle, and energy production slows when its demand is at the highest. To restore balance, to remediate, and to establish equilibrium by removing harmful contaminants requires novel techniques which are cost-effective and highly efficient. Contamination in aquifers, water supplies, and ecosystems can compound the problem since the bioavailability, fate, and transport of these contaminants are governed by complex biological and chemical reactions. To understand these fundamental processes, mathematical models must be integrated with experimental and field data to predict economical remediation strategies for contaminated environments in the long term. The resulting models can prescribe unique information on the effectiveness of remediation schemes for removing the contaminant plumes. The power of microbial reactions in organic materials to cleanly generate biogas as an alternative to fossil fuels provides a parallel field of investigation. To integrate lab work with mathematical models of bacterial activity, research and interdisciplinary approaches attempt to develop sustainable, proactive solutions to current problems. Ensuring that clean, adequate, and equitable supplies of water and energy are available to support human well-being and resilient ecosystems—now and in the future―becomes our challenge.

Sevinc SengorSevinc Sengor is an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at SMU Lyle. She is a member of the American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. Sevinc serves as faculty advisor for the Texas Society of Professional Engineers’ SMU Student Chapter and manages the Water Quality and Modeling Laboratory at Lyle. She collaborates on research projects involving emerging contaminants in drinking water supplies, multi-component transport modeling of heavy metals in subsurfaces, uranium fate and transport modeling, and applications of transport in nano-porous media for subsurface flows including oil and gas recovery during hydraulic fracking.

Dr. Sengor received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Environmental Engineering from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, and her Ph.D. in Water Resources from the University of California, Davis. To learn more about Dr. Sengor's research and get involved, contact her at ssengor@lyle.smu.edu.