How many times a day do you think about water? Probably not a lot. But now think about how many times a day you use it. From brushing your teeth, to boiling your pasta, to doing laundry and watering the plants – water is an essential life resource that is often overlooked. It’s easy to take it for granted that when you turn the tap on, clean, drinkable water will come out. But with the threats of climate change, pollution, a growing population and aging infrastructure, consistent clean, reliable water is not a given. It takes a lot of work.
While your water utility is doing everything they can to keep water clean and available on a daily basis, luckily we’re not alone. Our friend Ben Grumbles, president of the U.S. Water Alliance recently introduced us to some students with a similar goal in mind.
Students at Columbia University’s Water Center have formed an Aquanauts club to foster exploration, innovation, and awareness. They hosted their first major event back in April, which included student speakers, a film producer and water industry experts to provide students with a well-rounded vision of water challenges and how students can get involved. The Center also recently issued a report on America’s Climate-Related Water Risk, done in conjunction with Veolia and Growing Blue. Researchers developed a metric called the Normalized Deficit Index to reveal areas facing the greatest risk for multi-year droughts.
Stanford University’s Water in the West program looks at the water facts and policy choices for the western United States, including watershed health, aquifer depletion, the energy-water nexus, and climate adaptation. The group’s mission is to provide a sustainable water future through cutting-edge research, creative problem solving, active collaboration with decision makers and opinion leaders, effective public communications, and hands-on education of students (the “next generation” of problem solvers).
The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center in Alton, Illinois, partners with Lewis and Clark Community College, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Illinois Natural History Survey. The group won the 2011 U.S. Water Prize for advancing the science of monitoring and restoring complex ecosystems and hosting forums on topics such as nutrients and the Mississippi River. Their Great Rivers Ecological Observing Network Buoys will provide real time water quality and phytoplankton data on the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers, with plans to other rivers throughout the world.
We are inspired by these students and their commitment to a bright water future. It is their passion that will help all of us in the industry to identify the challenges we face and provide the solutions for them.
So the next time you turn on the tap to get your eight glasses a day, take a second to say thanks to our future water leaders!