Running dry

A leader in the coordination of water distribution efforts around the globe will speak about the state of the world’s freshwater resources and the actions needed to implement sustainable water use practices at 7:30 p.m.. on Friday at the University Lecture Hall.

Carlos Fernández-Jáuregui, the deputy coordinator of the World Water Assessment Program (WWAP), a U.N. program that coordinates global water assessment, will discuss water problems related to human health, economic and social development and government policy. He will also discuss the concerted global efforts that could solve them.

Americans may often confine their thoughts of water-related issues to underdeveloped countries abroad, but water issues are undeniably important to their everyday lives, Fernández-Jáuregui said.

“If a person is from New Orleans, I’m sure he won’t say water isn’t important. If a person is from Tampa and lives in the floodlands, or if a person lives in Colorado and sees less of a snowcap, they won’t say that either,” Fernández-Jáuregui said.

But human suffering from water shortages makes its presence felt more severely abroad. Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and more than 2.6 billion don’t have access to water for basic sanitation, according to the World Water Development Report released in March.

Every three years, 24 U.N. agencies under the umbrella of the WWAP coordinate the production of the report, which assesses the state of the world’s freshwater resources. Trends in global water use point to an increase in future water development problems, Fernandez-Juaregi said.

“If governments continue business as usual, developing and developed countries are going to be in a worse and worse situation,” Fernández-Jáuregui said.

If these trends continue, the goals for freshwater use and distribution that are part of the larger Millenium Development Goals for 2015 will not be met by Africa and parts of Southeast Asia, Fernández-Jáuregui said. He also said only 12 of 195 surveyed countries have improved their water situation in the last three years.

Bringing Fernández-Jáuregui to USF is part of a larger effort by the Patel Center to focus more of USF’s research energies on water-related research and its practical applications in solving world water problems, said Mark Amen, the Patel Center’s Academic Director.

“We’re committed to taking research and converting it into solving world problems,” Amen said. “And that’s what will make this University and the center unique.”

Fernández-Jáuregui will also be meeting with faculty and participating in a panel discussion about integrated water resource management today at 4:30 p.m. in the Sun Dome. The discussion, composed of faculty in the environmental science, anthropology, geology and engineering departments, highlights the interdisciplinary coordination that Amen hopes will be part of future water research efforts at USF.

“There are so many departments at the University where the faculty is doing cutting-edge research,” Amen said. “By bringing research across the different disciplines together, we can generate new knowledge and understanding that can’t be gained just by looking at the problems as an engineer, or somebody in health, or somebody in anthropology.”

Fernández-Jáuregui is the first in a series of experts the Patel Center will bring to USF to discuss other global problems such as those surrounding regional trade agreements, increasing urbanization and migration issues, Amen said. He also said by the spring, the Patel Center hopes to sponsor more visits by water experts and sponsor more water programs and workshops.