Carleton University Launches Global Water Institute

By Joseph Mathieu

Photos by Chris Roussakis

After months of preparation, Carleton University officially launched its Global Water Institute (GWI) following a water research symposium on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

Carleton Prof. Banu Örmeci became the Jarislowsky Chair in Water and Global Health in 2017 with a generous $2-million donation from the Jarislowsky Foundation and matching funds from Carleton for a total of $4-million, which has made the institute possible.

As the Canadian focal point of the Inter-American Network of Academies of Science (IANAS) water program, Örmeci and the institute led the symposium. In line with the GWI’s goal to incubate international and interdisciplinary research, it focused on water challenges and solutions of the Americas, with presentations from public health professionals, scientists and engineers.

“It is always very interesting to hear and learn more about what is happening in other countries, and to learn how you are dealing with your problems,” Örmeci told a rapt audience in Richcraft Hall. Co-hosted by IANAS and the Royal Society of Canada, the day-long symposium brought together scientists and researchers from 23 North and South American countries.

“It’s important that we’re able to have these kinds of interactions that Banu has organized,” said Alastair J.S. Summerlee, Carleton’s interim president and vice-chancellor,  “so that we can truly learn from each other what we should and could do to deal with one of our most precious natural resources.”

Summerlee, Interim Provost Jerry Tomberlin, and VP (Research and International) Rafik Goubran greeted the IANAS delegates and members of the GWI advisory board. Jarislowsky Foundation board member, Tim Brodhead, spoke on behalf of the foundation and credited Örmeci and the GWI advisory members with identifying the need for an institute many years ago.

“Canada needs excellence in all domains, and in supporting the best academics in the best universities, we can see real progress,” said Brodhead. “We’re very proud to be associated with this chair and Carleton University.”

During the symposium, 13 presentations highlighted research directed at a more sustainable future for water throughout the Americas.

Katherine Vammen, a specialist in water quality and management from the University of Central America in Managua, Nicaragua, spoke about the relationship between forests and water, and reported on the growing global demand for water with the spread of agriculture, logging and population growth.

Henry Vaux, a professor emeritus of resource economics at the University of California, Riverside, detailed some of the 21st century water problems in the United States.

“The U.S. faces a daunting set of challenges,” he said. “Some have their roots in new problems and other have grown and changed over time. Virtually all of these are made worse by neglect.”

Speakers from Columbia, Uruguay, El Salvador, Costa Rica and many other South American countries brought to light case studies in their countries, and Örmeci presented her own research findings on the status of drinking water and wastewater treatment in First Nations communities in Canada. Two panel discussions also identified current and upcoming water challenges of the Americas, as well as opportunities and solutions.

To conclude the ceremony, Örmeci invited engineering PhD candidate Natalie Linklater, who specializes in wastewater disinfection, to provide a Carleton student’s perspective.

“What I’ve absorbed from listening to people at the conference today was that these problems that we’re facing are global, they don’t respect the boundaries of a country,” she said. “We have to learn how to talk to each other and how to bridge those boundaries to create solutions that are both flexible and adaptable.”

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