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Civil Engineering: Water for Portugal



Oct 7, 2014

Education, Science

Civil Engineering: Water for Portugal

Invisible Water Treatment Facility
Fall 2014 students walk through what appears to be a park but is actually a natural area built atop the SimTejo Subsistema de Alcântara water treatment facility in order to make it more public-friendly.

Within an hour of the MV Explorer reaching land in Portugal, students of Professor Richard D’Amato’s Water for the World civil engineering class set out to experience topics they have been learning about aboard the ship.  To develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the highly complex issues surrounding water, its availability and uses on a global basis, Professor D’Amato led the group to the modern SimTejo Subsistema de Alcântara water treatment facility and the Museu da Água, or Water Museum, of Lisbon.

Sniff Test
Dominique Willis, of the University of Virginia, smells water that has been processed by the treatment facility.

“It was amazing to see a wastewater treatment plant and then a historic aqueduct as studied in class.  Some interesting facts about of the waste water facility that I learned are that it uses the collected sediment from the used water for agriculture, the plant itself doesn’t smell (they even treat the air before releasing it to the environment), the treatment process is done underground, and the roofs of the buildings are green roofs.  Looking at an aerial view of the facility, I wouldn’t have known that used water gets treated below since all I could see was their garden.

The stone arch aqueduct has the tallest stone arch in the world and withstood a 9.0 earthquake in 1755.  The aqueduct led to a beautiful enclosed reservoir and we were able to walk through some of the underground tunnels that once distributed the water throughout the city.  Although it’s not used anymore, to imagine the original water system working as it would is astounding.

From the true basics of stone arch architecture state-of-the-art modern technology, this field lab was phenomenal and exceeded my expectations.  I’m extremely glad that I had this opportunity to see behind the scenes of Lisbon’s water world.”

– Kei-Lin Chang, University of California at Irvine

Mãe d’Água
A local guide leads Semester at Sea students through the Mãe d’Água at the Museu da Água.
Professor Richard D’Amato
Professor Richard D’Amato (right) talks with Mathilde Louis, of Ecole Polytechnique Feminine, at the Mãe d’Água reservoir.
Water Distribution Tunnels
In part of the Water Museum, students walked tunnels once used for water distribution.

“Participating in the Water for the World field lab gave me the opportunity to tour a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility in Lisbon, Portugal. Being a chemistry major, this eye-opening experience helped to shed light on a new avenue for a possible career choice that would otherwise have gone unexplored.”

– Benjamin Carlson, The College of St. Scholastica

CE 3100
Class members of Professor Richard D’Amato’s Civil Engineering course stand in front of a section of the Águas Livres Aqueduct, built in the 18th century.
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