Water Games: Urban Water Research Center Motivates Local Youth to Get Involved

UC Irvine partners with Orange County Department of Education to launch Water Innovation Now Contest

Water challenges – from pollution, to usage, to conservation, to management of supply – are a growing area of concern, not just in the local community, but across the country and around the world.  On Sept. 23, the Urban Water Research Center (UWRC) at UC Irvine helped kick off a new collaboration designed to excite young people about addressing the water crisis.  Partnering with the Orange County Department of Education and numerous other sponsors, the Water Innovation Now (WIN) contest was launched, charging school children to come up with innovative ways to solve water use and availability concerns.

The contest is being piloted in Orange County this academic year, with the intention of growing the program to a national contest, and is also is supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Ocean Institute, Disney’s Environmentality Challenge, the Wyland Foundation, and Inside the Outdoors.

WIN will challenge students from kindergarten through twelfth grade to create presentations in PowerPoint, video, or poster board format that demonstrate creative solutions to the water crisis.  Winning entries will be presented by students to international delegates at the UCI-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) water conference, “Water Unifies,” on December 3, 2008. 

”Water Unifies” is designed to identify water resources, management principles aimed at answering global change and scarcity challenges, and recognize the role and significance of groundwater and the interdependency of surface water and groundwater resources.  

“Climate variability, population growth, and expanding urbanization are the types of global changes that are adversely affecting water availability and leading to chronic water shortage,” said Bill Cooper, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the UWRC. “During the conference we will be sharing ideas for innovative solutions, and we are so pleased to have the students from Orange County share their ideas as well.”

The UCI-UNESCO conference, to be held at the UC Irvine Student Center from December 1-5, aims to bring together a multitude of experts and stakeholders to present advanced technologies, exchange ideas and experiences involving and educating society about water scarcity, and establish mechanisms for international cooperation among institutions of higher education and research, local authorities, consulting and engineering firms, and others. 

The conference organizers also intend to produce a policy proposal and action plan for concrete and practical follow-up, while also contributing to UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme Seventh Phase (2008-2013), and preparing for the 5th World Water Forum (Istanbul, Turkey, March 2009).

In addition to being involved with the WIN contest and preparing for the “Water Unifies” conference, the UWRC is also busy spearheading several initiatives on local, national, and international levels to bring increased awareness to various water issues.

For example, on Friday, Sept. 12, the UWRC hosted its second annual gala event at the St. Regis Resort in Dana Point.  In addition to celebrating the past year’s successes, the evening also served as the world premier screening of “The American Southwest:  Are We Running Dry?” – a documentary film by Jim Thebaut.  Actress Jane Seymour, who narrates the film, and California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi made special appearances and delivered remarks.

For additional information about the “Water Unifies” conference, please visit http://www.waterunifies.org.

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