On the crest of the wave: McMaster at the forefront of global water research


Dustin Garrick (centre), assistant professor in the Faculties of Social Sciences and Engineering and Philomathia Chair of Water Policy, was a driving force behind Tuesday's Philomathia Water Forum at McMaster Innovation Park.

By the year 2050, Earth will be home to roughly 10 billion people. Each and every one of those people will require freshwater to survive, yet the world’s finite supply is expected to become increasingly scarce.

In some corners of the globe, it’s already happening.

For the past six months, Australia has been plagued by wild brush fires scarring large swaths of dry land. In March, California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as residents braced for a prolonged water shortage. Just this week, the United Nations has warned that a looming drought in Syria could lead to a record-low wheat harvest, putting millions at risk of starvation.

On Tuesday, some of the country’s top scientific minds gathered at McMaster Innovation Park to address these issues and more at the Philomathia Water Forum: 21st Century Water Security Challenges for Society and Science.

The event featured two lively discussion panels touching on science, policy, health, innovation and technology, as well as a keynote address from Oxford professor David Grey, co-chair of the OECD/Global Water Partnership Task Force on Water Security and Sustainable Growth.

The forum also served as a launch event for a new interdisciplinary research network at McMaster, aiming to tackle some of the world’s most pressing water-related issues. Dustin Garrick, assistant professor in the Faculties of Social Sciences and Engineering and McMaster’s Philomathia Chair of Water Policy, is leading the charge.

“There are several mega-trends in society related to population growth, urbanization and climate change which make managing existing water more challenging,” Garrick told RCI’s Marc Montgomery ahead of Tuesday’s event. “The issue is how to manage that small amount of water that is available as freshwater, for society and society’s evolving needs.

“[The network] is designed to connect science, policy and technology to deliver local and global impacts. In terms of the challenges we’ve been discussing, they don’t respect borders politically, they don’t respect borders from different disciplines, and they require a shared understanding of the nature of the challenges.”

Read the full story and listen to a live interview with Garrick on RCI.

In 2012, the Philomathia Foundation announced a $1 million gift to McMaster to establish the Philomathia Foundation Water Project.