Addressing education/translation needs by identifying the key “units of study” (Taba, 1999) for water research at OSU, and explicitly communicating how we conceptualize water research.
Accounting for water justice in our educational and science translation work.
Working with stakeholders on campus to serve OSU’s water research marketing and communications needs – clarifying our strengths.
Community building as part of water research, both internally and in connection with outside stakeholders.
Developing a fund-raising plan
When I shared the final forum agenda yesterday I got a few questions about the break-outs we have scheduled in the morning. The framing question for the breakouts is “What would it look like if OSU was the premier scholar community for water security studies, advocacy, and world-wide change?” Each table will explore diverse assets individuals could tap into for collaborative conversation and research. An asset could be mental or physical; for example, a knowledge base, a technical skill, access to a research facility, or a pedagogical tool.
You might consider ahead of time what assets you would be comfortable sharing on Friday, and what other assets might benefit from what you offer, or might benefit your research. We hope your tables will come up with compelling questions that fill a gap in local/global water research, while also building upon our own strengths here at OSU. You also might simply brainstorm ways we can solve each other’s practical and logistical problems, or the types of grants or conference papers which would lead to more substantive projects.
The pedagogical assets are of particular value because, as educators we can all relate to this need in the classroom. Likewise, an essential part of interdisciplinary research is making your research lenses explicit in your own mind before sharing them with others – just as you do with your students. I invite you to think about analytical lenses you are using right now in your research; e.g., “remote sensing,” “algae detection,” “land use,” “practitioner perspectives,” “gender,” etc.
For more information, check out the format for the break-outs which follows Purdue’s “Strategic Doing” methodology.
I am very pleased to announce the keynote speaker for our upcoming water research forum will be Vanesa Rodríguez Osuna, Senior Scientist at CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, and Project Director at sequa gGmbH. She will present a vision for the future of water security that she and her colleagues developed at the request of the UN’s High Level Panel on Water. She will break down some of the key challenges scientists and water management practitioners face if we are to go beyond the grey-green dichotomy of water management. This vision shows how this is necessary if we are to solve the world’s water crisis.
The central focus of the forum is a Water Security Vision for the future which entails: “The ever accelerating environmental and societal challenges of the rapidly developing world, particularly in the water sector, are today routinely met with novel solutions that have moved beyond the typical and unitary focus on engineering-based approaches of the past to embrace blended grey-green approaches to water management.” Vorosmarty et al (2018, p. 318). These approaches will require skilled workforces and knowledge sharing for local water management practices around the world.
According to Vorosmarty et al. (2010), “nearly 80% of the world’s population is exposed to high levels of threat to water security.” I learned from Danny Wright, CEO of Gravity Water, however, that more people are affected by water cleanliness issues than water scarcity issues because more of the world’s population lives in tropical climates (global map below) with plenty of precipitation. By integrating local perspectives into conversations on how to solve the water crisis, perhaps a more realistic direction may be found for overcoming the global water crisis.
Looking at water through the lens of war (Klare, 2002), the Middle East is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for water resource conflict with numerous cross-border tensions surrounding the Nile River and Euphrates Tigris river basins. Yet, at the same time, extraordinary cross-border cooperation in the region makes the Middle East a source for hope.
Our goal is to provide a framework for these conversations which will draw in multiple scientific, scholarly, and regional perspectives. You can see the diversity of regional water circumstances from the map below – each region bring different knowledge-bases based on their environmental circumstance which could inform cultural and/or technological solutions.
The Marib Dam in Yemen is case study in the complicated relationships between engineering, civilization, and tradition. The original dam was “built in about 115BC irrigated thousands of acres of agricultural land and made Marib rich agriculturally. . . In the 1980s, Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s Founding Father, offered to fund a new dam” (1). The new dam encountered unintended consequences (2), such as posing a drowning hazard for locals (2), permanently damaging traditional irrigation structures (2), and becoming both a casualty (2) and an instrument of war (1).
Yemen’s traditional means for water-efficient agriculture was a system of irrigation which would maximize the monsoon rains. Channels would be dug to capture some of the torrential waters flowing in the wadis. The water pressure would cause the water to penetrate deep into the soil and avoid excessive evaporation and desalinization.
Tiered systems of irrigation are another traditional means of irrigation in Yemen which can be traced back to the Queen of Sheba’s dam pictured above. Unfortunately the roads and other construction necessary to build the new Marib dam permanently damaged these delicate, hand-made structures (2).
We posit the Middle East may hold important keys for addressing the world’s water resource management issues. These are the main reasons:
- multiple climatic conditions, from the world’s largest deserts to water-rich areas which feed the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
- break-throughs in desalinization as Israel now produces drinking water from the sea
- cross-border cooperation in tense political climate
- case studies on ancient and modern water resource management
- multiple dams and water engineering projects of regional and global significance
We will explore these topics in future posts. We will also explore this question at our faculty research forum on water contexts of the Middle East and the rest of the world. Please join us on Feb. 8th.
Source 1: https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-dam-that-sheikh-zayed-built-1.128295
Source 2: Hehmeyer, 2015. “Hydraulic engineering and water management under harsh conditions: Past and present, lessons from Yemen“
- What if the Middle East had the capacity to solve the global water crisis?
There is a water crisis of global proportions, with 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water world-wide. Six thousand children are dying per day due to that, and 80% of disease can be attributed to a lack of clean water (Water Ambassadors, Canada). At OSU, the Middle East Studies Center, the Mershon Center, International Programs in Agriculture, and the Office of Research in the College of Arts and Sciences, have facilitated conversations between faculty of many different departments focusing on water. We will continue these activities by hosting annual forums on water research with a focus on topics such as transboundary conflict/cooperation.
With over 250 scholars researching water resource issues at OSU, including 4 of our Middle East faculty (Lal, Marquaire, McCorriston, Ranjbar), OSU has the potential to produce knowledge which could make an impact on various local water issues around the world. The cross-sections of social justice movements, environmental activism and water resource management issues make this a particularly salient topic for the Middle East. We have therefore made it a priority to facilitate cross-disciplinary research connections at OSU on this topic, and to curate water research.
We propose activities to draw new faculty from the sciences, technology, engineering and math, to focus on our world area, and partner with faculty from other departments for a multi-disciplinary approach. This is in line with our university’s efforts to develop knowledge relate to broad themes such as sustainability, health, and food, via “Discovery Themes,” the curricular rubric at OSU for promoting multidisciplinary research relevant to global issues. The Office of Research will facilitate a charrette in the first year to gather stakeholder input. We will design subsequent forums based on faculty needs and interests and publish proceedings.