UBC’s Okanagan campus activities promote sustainable water management
Drawing attention to the massive problems faced by African nations in water and food security is the central theme of global World Water Day on March 22.
At UBC’s Okanagan campus, there is a schedule of activities planned from March 20 through 22 and the public is invited to all events. UBC’s World Water Day Coordinating Committee is working with Partners in the Horn of Africa, a locally based non-governmental organization that works with communities in Ethiopia to sponsor sustainable agricultural projects. These often involve building small-scale irrigation works and water-quality improvement projects.
Rhiannon Wallace, a third-year Science student majoring in microbiology in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, is 2012 World Water Day student coordinator on campus. She considers her position a great opportunity to learn more about the environment and water issues that face society.
“I am really drawn into this year’s United Nations World Water Day topic of water and food security,” says Wallace, from Trail, B.C. She notes that with a population of 7 billion today and another 2 billion expected to be added by 2050, the world is growing at a pace that challenges the availability of natural resources like water to supply global needs.
Wallace has found that many students are unaware of the Okanagan Sustainability Office and what UBC does to promote water sustainability.
“With the world’s increasing population, awareness has to be raised for the issue of water in Canada and other countries,” she says. “It is important for me, as a student, to assist in promoting sustainable management of water resources everywhere. I want students to know about the issues and how they can get involved.”
Doug Owram, deputy vice chancellor and principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus, says it is important for a university community to practice what it teaches about water sustainability. “The availability of water, the quality of that water, and the future of water resources are major issues facing Okanagan communities,” says Owram.
“Our conservation practices on campus, along with our academic pursuits, support UBC’s development of sustainable water strategies,” says Owram. “Research such as chemistry professor Susan Murch’s efforts to develop more drought-resistant rootstocks for wine grapes, and biologist Ian Walker’s research into aquatic insects as indicators of environmental change will ensure that we can better understand and manage this vital resource. We, as a society, must become better water stewards.”
Every year since 1996, UBC’s Okanagan campus has marked March 22 with World Water Day activities. This year the opening ceremony kicks off in the Central Courtyard on Tuesday March 20 from noon to 1:30 p.m., featuring a drum procession, talks by local political leaders and water experts, musical performances, and poetry. Several local organizations will also set up information and display tables and there will be a farmers’ market.
On all three days, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., World Water Day displays by students of UBC anthropologist John Wagner will be on view in the Arts Building foyer.
Also on Tuesday March 20, there will be a panel discussion at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, 4870 Chute Lake Rd., featuring Yehalem Metiku, from Ethiopia, country representative from Partners in the Horn of Africa; Ted van der Gulik, BC Ministry of Agriculture and vice-chair of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council; John Wagner, anthropology professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus who has researched Okanagan water issues; permaculturalists Javan Bernakevitch and Michael Nickels, sustainable farming experts; and Ann Warwick Sears, with the Okanagan Basin Water Board. Advance registration is required and a web link is provided below.
On Wednesday March 21, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., Metiku will speak on sustainable agriculture and grassroots development in ART376 in the Arts Building.
From 2 to 5 p.m. on March 21, a Poetry Slam will be presented by Creative Studies students of Nancy Holmes. The venue is not yet determined, but will be available on UBC’s World Water Day website: http://www.ubc.ca/okanagan/sustainability/getinvolved/events/2012WWD.html
From 7 to 9 p.m. Metiku is keynote speaker in the Mary Irwin Theatre at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. He will speak about the water and food security challenges faced by Ethiopia and about the projects that Partners in the Horn of Africa are working on in collaboration with Ethiopian communities and grassroots organizations. Advance registration is required: http://firstname.lastname@example.org/
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