CSU Hydrology Days – Water Resources and Malaria

When you hear about efforts to stop the spread of malaria, the focus is generally on how to kill as many mosquitoes as possible. We were surprised to learn that the water resources field is also getting involved in the fight.

Professor Elfatih A.B Eltahir and his research group at MIT are studying ways to reduce mosquito breeding pools in Africa. Dr. Eltahir spoke about his research during lunch at the 2014 CSU Hydrology Days. After being presented with the Borland Award, he gave a lecture titled “Role of the Environment in Shaping Malaria Transmission in Africa”.

For being such a small, pesky creature, the mosquito has a complex life cycle. Eggs are born in still water and hatch into larva. The larva live in water and mature into pupa. Finally, the pupa grow into fully mature adult mosquito, which promptly start looking for people or animals to bite. Malaria is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected person and then spreads the infection by biting another person.

Dr. Eltahir’s work has focused on identifying the factors necessary for a pool of water to become a nursery for the eggs, larva, and pupa. It takes 7 to 10 days for an egg to become an adult mosquito. If pools of water that form after rainstorms can be drained in 6 days, then the mosquito life cycle is disrupted. Now his team of graduate students are testing the effectiveness of simple mitigation strategies, such as leveling the ground, improving drainage systems, and increasing infiltration capacity by breaking up clay layers.

This is a great example of civil engineers applying their skills in a unique way. Check out this link to a news article with more information.