By Tim Carroll
Metro State has secured a $1 million donation from an anonymous local donor to establish the One World, One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship (OWOW Center). Set to offer a minor in water studies in fall 2012, the center will provide an interdisciplinary education program addressing the growing demand for water and the need for greater public education about this vital resource.
“In Denver’s urban environment, water stewardship and sustainability are especially important and relevant topics,” says President Stephen Jordan. “Our donor’s generosity is a testament to the College’s ability to address these issues from its unique vantage point as an urban land-grant institution.”
In addition to the water studies minor, the OWOW Center will establish and facilitate co-curricular public education seminars and water stewardship activities on campus and in the community. The center will work with a high-level community advisory group to ensure direct relevance of the program to statewide water needs and interests.The program will connect students with internships, service learning and volunteer opportunities.
The $1 million donation, the largest private cash donation ever awarded to the College, will seed the five-year pilot project. The College will also contribute funds to the OWOW Center to lay the foundation for its long-term sustainability.
The OWOW Center will engage multiple academic departments on campus as well as leading local and national water organizations in developing the curriculum and learning opportunities. Course topics will include hydrology, water law, history, economics, politics, conflict resolution and negotiation. Students will be required to complete a senior thesis or project with a focus on water stewardship utilizing their major-specific methodologies.
“When we researched the potential for this program, we found that there wasn’t much being done at the undergraduate level to incorporate a variety of disciplines in water education,” says School of Professional Studies Dean Sandra Haynes. “Through the interdisciplinary model, our graduates have the potential to make lasting impacts on water issues in our communities across the state and in their chosen profession.”
Water resources strained
The establishment of the OWOW Center is coming at a critical time. With continued residential development along the Front Range, the Denver basin’s aquifers continue to become more strained, which could restrict future economic development in the region. In a 2004 study, the Colorado Water Conservation Board predicted that by 2030 the region’s annual water demand will exceed available supplies by 120,000 to 360,000 acre-feet.
Proposed inter-basin water transfer projects require expensive capital investment and carry unknown long-term environmental costs. Water historically has been and will continue to be a central issue in Colorado, home to the headwaters of five primary rivers: Arkansas, Colorado, South Platte, Rio Grande and White/Yampa.
“We know the College can effectively fulfill this growing need by facilitating a solution-oriented dialogue that promotes effective use of Colorado’s water resources for both urban and rural communities alike,” says Haynes.
A search for the center’s director is currently underway.
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