April 2008, Vol. 20, No.4

From the Editors

WE&T Prelude

The Best Laid Plans

Melissa Jackson

As I type this, I am having a difficult week, or what those with rosier-colored glasses than my own — which happen to be crystal clear — might call a “learning experience.”

Our usually calm household has been besieged by spring break, an extended cold and flu season, and an unruly foster dog. Yet I remain calm. In the “old days” (say, 15 years ago), unexpected circumstances could have wreaked havoc with my deadlines. But today, I can complete my work at any time, from just about anywhere. I am not always thrilled to have remote access — after all, the possibility of working 24–7 certainly blurs the lines between our professional and personal lives — but at least for this week and this issue, I am grateful to have a viable Plan B.

Whether you’re putting together a magazine or starting an engineering project, it’s likely that something will go awry. But that doesn’t matter. What’s important is how you adapt to changing circumstances to reach your goal. That’s why I think you’ll enjoy our story on microtunneling at Arlington National Cemetery (“Now What?”). In constructing a stormwater pipeline, the project team was able to push past numerous obstacles — including a sinkhole and one very large boulder — in order to see the project through to completion and avoid costly litigation. Now that’s what I call good planning.

Melissa Jackson, editor

Operations Forum Editor's Note


Steve Spicer, editor

As April arrives and spring makes a comeback, it’s an appropriate time to talk about green practices. I’m not talking about recycling and conservation — although they certainly are environmentally friendly. I’m talking about using plants and natural systems to help us manage and eliminate pollution.

Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. After all, most wastewater treatment processes essentially are natural processes adapted and refined to work faster and more efficiently. In several cases, utilities as well as industries are using wetlands as a polishing step for treated effluent.

This trend also has reached into our cities, where we’re beginning to realize that nature’s way is complementary to our technological advancements. Rain gardens, green roofs, vegetated buffers, and porous pavements all unite our ability to adapt and refine processes with the knowledge that nature has a means of accomplishing the same goals.

Our perceptions change gradually, as do our opinions of the best way to cope with challenges. In “Natural Assistance,” the authors examine how cities nationwide are finding green practices helpful in managing stormwater flows. In addition to the water quality and quantity issues these low-impact development practices address, they also improve the urban landscape, improve public relations for stormwater issues, and contribute to a better quality of life for everyone involved.

Steve Spicer, editor