UBC Okanagan celebrates World Water Day with four days of events, March 24-27

UBC Okanagan commemorates World Water Day with four days of events from March 24 to 27. Started by the United Nations in 1992, World Water Day is recognized and celebrated internationally on March 22 as a day of action to promote the importance of water as a resource and a basic human right.

“Nothing is more important to our community or to life in general than water,” says John Wagner, UBC Okanagan associate professor and World Water Week organizer. “Coming together as a community to celebrate water is one of the ways to support the work being done towards improved stewardship of water – which requires greater awareness of the many problems we are now facing, such as water quality issues, water scarcity issues, and issues of water equity, especially in relation to indigenous water rights.”

World Water Week opening ceremonies will be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, in the campus courtyard. There will be a combination of artistic and musical presentations, short speeches by visiting dignitaries, including Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd and Lake Country Mayor James Baker, and presentations by students on campus research and activism. As in previous years, members of the Okanagan Nation will participate in the celebrations.

“It is especially important that they participate in this event because there are important, unresolved, legal issues around indigenous water rights,” says Wagner. “Most people in the region do not understand that local indigenous communities have been suffering from water scarcity for decades already, as a consequence of the ways in which water rights were assigned during the colonial period. This has seriously damaged the ecologies, economies and cultural fabric of their communities.”

Another highlight this year is a presentation on Wednesday, March 25 by Burt Cohen, director of Potters Without Borders – a locally based, internationally focused, non-profit organization helping communities around the world with their research on ceramic water filter technology as part of a solution to waterborne disease. The presentation takes place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Arts Building room ART376 at UBC Okanagan.

On Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. there will be a panel presentation at the Kelowna Yacht Club organized by the Okanagan Basin Water Board Governance Panel on Shared Waters, Shared Opportunities: Canada and U.S. relations and the Okanagan Basin.

Friday’s events include a poetry slam scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Okanagan Room in the student services building and – closing out World Water Week – a free public lecture at 7 p.m. by global water strategist Sandra Postel at Kelowna's Rotary Centre for the Arts about the future of the planet's water supply.

Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project in Amherst, Massachusetts and author of the books Pillar of Sand and Last Oasis, and of the essay Troubled Waters, selected for the 2001 edition of Best American Science and Nature Writing. Her March 27 free public presentation is part of UBC Okanagan's Distinguished Speaker Series and World Water Week.

“Attending events like these is inspiring and educational,” says Tanya Rooney, World Water Week student coordinator. “Water is such an important global and local issue. Its availability, provision and management are so important to everyone, not just the academic community. It is important for people to know that they can positively contribute to water stewardship just by adjusting small habits and behaviours.”

“Our hope is that people will take the opportunity to learn more about water scarcity and the importance of community involvement to better manage natural resources,” adds Allisha Luther, World Water Week student coordinator.

For more information or to see the full schedule of World Water Week events visit http://weblogs.elearning.ubc.ca/worldwaterday/.

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