Daily Iowan: Water Sustainability Cluster Moves Forward

Sunday, March 13, 2011

By Alexandra Skalla
Daily Iowan

The only resource that will sustain a population set to grow by 50 to 80 million people in the next 25 years is water.

Dave Dzombak, civil and environmental professor from Carnegie Mellon University, spoke Thursday to a crowd of nearly 50 at the University of Iowa Chemistry Building about the increasing demand for water and alternatives for water in thermoelectric power production.

And in the quest for water sustainability, it’s time to move forward, Dzombak said.

“I’ve been thinking a lot these days about our various footprints,” said Dzombak. “The real challenge is to decrease resource consumption.”

As experts put more emphasis on water sustainability, the UI is keeping pace.

The university’s Water Sustainability Initiative established the Water Sustainability Cluster Steering Committee in 2009 in order to improve research in water sustainability. The initiative’s current goal is to hire 10 faculty to study the topic.

Jerald Schnoor, head of the initiative, said the 3-year-period hiring process is on schedule. Two faculty have already been hired, offers have been extended to two more and searches for three additional faculty are underway.

Tori Forbes, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, and Aaron Strong, an assistant professor in the department of Urban and Regional Planning, are the professors already on campus studying water sustainability.

Schnoor said officials plan to hire one water-related professor for geosciences in ground water, one for electrical computer engineering, one for mass communications, and one for public health.

“The cluster will allow students to enter multi-disciplinary areas that wouldn’t be possible without the cluster,” Schnoor said.

Professors will start teaching courses in water sustainability once all the faculty are hired, he said.

“I foresee collaborating with geography, computer engineering, environmental engineering,” said Forbes in reference to future research in the cluster. “I think it’s really going to turn out great.”

Possessing strong interest research and teaching, Forbes is looking forward to exposing students to a variety of experiences in order for them to get jobs in diverse backgrounds.

“It’s important for our generation because it’s such an ongoing issue,” said Thomas Bang, a UI senior. “Our society has access to clean water, and we should extend that opportunity to other communities.”

The civil and environmental engineering student spent five weeks in Kobreti, Ghana, with three other students as part of a development partnership through the University of Iowa. The students focused on sustainable development for water to improve the prosperity of the community.

For Bang, having a variety of classes helps students strengthen their interest in sustainable technology.