Living next to the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, it’s easy to take water for granted; it’s ever-present, and the idea of water scarcity or extreme weather is a distant notion.
But while McMaster Water Week may have come and gone, the take home message has been clear: water is the world’s most valuable resource, and the global water crisis takes many forms, both globally and locally.
From Oct. 6 to 10, McMaster was home to a number of dignitaries and guests in order to raise awareness and understanding of the broad influence that water has as a resource. Hosted by the McMaster Water Network, events such as panels, discussions, and workshops were all held throughout the week facilitating discussion on the primary concerns with water in the world, moving forward.
“The goal of McMaster Water Week is part of a broader initiative to build a network of researchers, students, and partners in the community – where community is defined both locally and globally, who are working together to address the challenges associated with the global water crisis,” said Dustin Garrick, Philomathia Professor in Water Policy and Research and head organizer of the week-long events.
Garrick, who officially joined McMaster University last January from the University of Oxford, has been involved water policy work for the past twelve years.
What Garrick stresses is that water is linked to a number of global issues, whether it’s with climate change adaptation, public health, or water and development.
“The issues that are relevant in a given place are different; it could be flooding and pollution here, or water scarcity and environmental collapse in another area,” Garrick said.
“To solve these types of problems, you need to bring together different disciplines. You may have specialized training in health sciences, public health, which addresses one component of the problem, and specialized training in public policy, another component of the problem; and even beyond that you can bring in engineering, natural sciences, in understanding the challenges around water.”
The importance of student involvement, as well as the variety of skills obtained from different disciplines, was something that Garrick hoped to convey throughout the week. Students, in addition to helping organize the events, showcased 56 project posters in the MUSC atrium during the week, with the opportunity to share their research relating to water.
In total, over 700 people were counted among the attendance during the week, which comes to around 400 unique people when accounting for attending multiple events. But while the week’s events were a success, Garrick is more interested in what can happen beyond the event.
“The most important thing is that these events would benefit the students, and would give students the opportunity to become the next generation of water leaders, who are going to require the kind of interdisciplinary skills that we’re discussing,” he said.
“The focus now is using this as a foundation; it’s a beginning point, not an endpoint, and we have a number of plans to continue it.”