The lack of adequate access to clean water is a global crisis affecting more than a billion people worldwide. Population growth, climate change, land use and energy choices, and global poverty have caused precipitous changes in water quantity, availability, and quality. Unless we can overcome or adapt to these driving forces, future generations will inherit a legacy of declining and degraded water resources. Meeting this challenge will require expertise in and collaboration among a wide range of disciplines, including economics, policy, and law, as well as the natural sciences and engineering. That’s why the University of Iowa is assembling a multidisciplinary faculty alliance on water sustainability, bringing together faculty from the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Public Health, Law, and Engineering; the Graduate College; and the Public Policy Center.
The Water Sustainability Initiative builds on a solid foundation of existing UI strengths including the Iowa Flood Center, academic strengths in cognate areas of sustainable energy and clean air, the Office of Sustainability, and an undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability. It supports the university’s fundamental commitment—as announced by President Sally Mason on Earth Day 2008—to make sustainability “a central priority of all aspects of our university enterprise—our operations, our academic mission, and our responsibilities to the greater society.” And it speaks to the priorities of an Iowa population that, having lived through devastating floods in the last 20 years, is acutely aware of the impacts of water and eager to learn how to better manage water resources.
The Water Sustainability Initiative has brought 10 new faculty members to campus to join with existing faculty such as Dr. Jerald Schnoor, an internationally recognized expert in water quality and environmental modeling and chair of the Initiative’s steering committee.