Urban Rivers Group


The goal of the research group is to evaluate the significance of cities on sediment transport to the coast. Sediment is critical for a healthy coastal environment and robust ecosystem services. While the amount of sediment being generated, transported and delivered to the coast through and around urban hubs is a critical part of the sediment cycle, this process is poorly understood.

Today the majority of the world’s population lives coastally near river mouths. U.S. rivers entering the Gulf of Mexico host an abundance of urban centers, such as Houston, TX. Cities influence sediment transport through:

  • River impoundment, which forces a deposition of sediment, taking sediment out of transport
  • Impervious area, which results in greater runoff and therefore a greater propensity for sediment transport
  • Land development, which typically increases sediment generation due to land destabilization

While there has been a wide breadth of work published on sediment transport, land cover change and urban hydrology, the magnitude of impact from each of these variables on the amount of sediment being delivered to the coast is largely unknown.

By identifying urban coastal sediment sources and sinks, and modeling the sediment being transported through and around urban coastal areas, more can be understood about the urban impacts on coastal sediment delivery. Ultimately, this knowledge will aid the coastal environmental management community in environmental management and decision making.

Shifting the Flood Paradigm” (TEDxVillanovaU)

Worldwide urban growth has led to degradation of natural water systems, resulting in flooding, environmental contamination, and water security stress. Leveraging advancements in data collection and computational technology, society has the potential to bridge traditionally siloed fields to produce more effective and sustainable engineering solutions for urban flooding and water security. Dr. Virginia Smith's presents why water resource planning is fundamental for a more sustainable world, how her cutting edge research is addressing growing global flood crises, and what you can do to help shift the flood paradigm.


Student Researchers

Current PhD Students:
Wisdom Akatu
Abdullah Al Mehedi
Mohammed Said

Current MS Students:
Matt McGauley
Richard Starkey
Jessica Erben
Carleigh Lutz

Open Positions

With increasing job opportunities, it’s an ideal time to advance your career in this field of engineering. Villanova University’s Master of Science in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering (MSWREE) is a nationally-recognized program. Prospective applicants should refer to specific admission criteria for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Criteria for applicants to any College of Engineering program can be found on our website.

​This research group is part of the Villanova Center for Resilient Water Systems.

Undergraduates interested in this rapidly growing field can pursue a traditional Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, or a 5-year Bachelor’s/Master’s degree.

For more information or to learn about research opportunities, please contact Dr. Smith.

Updated 6/15/2021

Dr. Virginia Smith


Dr. Virginia Smith

Assistant Professor
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Google Scholar

Water Resources Engineering at Villanova University