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Campus, JHU Global Water Program Host Water Awareness Symposium

Water Symposium

“This is the right place, the right time, the right issue, and the right moment,” said George Hawkins, General Manager, DC Water, in launching last month’s Water Awareness Symposium at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus. “There may be no more important issue on the face of the earth right now than water.”

Subtitled “An Open Discussion on Issues of Regional Water Quality Management in a Global Context,” the event brought together experts from academia, government, and private industry. The goal of the morning was to inspire holistic, creative, and collaborative approaches to address water challenges and identify research topics of interest for multi-agency (private and public) partnerships.

“There is no more significant issue to human civilization than what we do,” Hawkins said. “If you can’t provide clean water, then nothing else matters. We know that in our industry.”

Hawkins also talked about one of the industry’s biggest challenges: That most people don’t think about water.

“They turn on a spigot and it’s there, fresh, every day,” he said. “It goes down the drain and, boom, it’s gone. But there are still enormous challenges in water.”

He also emphasized how fundamental water is to the entire economy. “Water drives work and jobs,” he said. “How many jobs do we support? All of them. You couldn’t be in a building if you didn’t have water and sewer service. Without water, there would be no jobs, no buildings, no restaurants, and no manufacturing facilities. Nothing could function without what we do.

“We’re at the watershed of need for the next scale of innovation,” he added. “The only way we’re going to be able to undertake the massive improvements we need is if we look at water as a whole.”

Hawkins set the stage for the remainder of the morning, during which representatives touched on issues as wide ranging as water availability, better use of stormwater, establishing different water quality levels for different water uses, wastewater reuse, and water management strategies. Presenters also spoke about the impact climate change and population growth has had on water resources locally and globally.

Dr. Zohreh Movahed, P.E., Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Regulatory Group Leader, and an instructor in the Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals program said she was pleased that there appeared to be a genuine interest in the questions of 'Is it necessary to treat all water to the stringent drinking water standards?' and 'Can alternate, non-potable water be used for some purposes such as fire fighting, industrial cooling purposes or toilet flushing?

She also was pleased that the importance of the water industry became clear during the morning.

“It’s very obvious that the foundation for economic growth is providing opportunities in the water industry,” she added.

Hawkins reinforced Movahed’s point.

“We’re hiring engineers,” Hawkins said. “We’re growing so fast. If an engineer wants to do cool projects, DC Water is the place to be. We’re building tunnels that are bigger and deeper than the Metro. We’re working with huge turbines and pump systems. In the next 10 years, we’ll be spending $4 billion upgrading systems all over the city.”

Symposium speakers included Professor Edward J. Bouwer, Chair, Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University; Ben Movahed, P.E., President, Watek Engineering; William P. Ball, P.E., Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University; Professor Alba Torrents, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland; Jay Sakai, Director, Water Management Administration, Maryland Department of the Environment; Gary Gumm, P.E., Chief Engineer, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission; Mr. Lewis Linker, Modeling Coordinator, Environmental Protection Agency — Chesapeake Bay Program Office; Samuel B. Moki, Associate Director, Environmental Services Division of Prince George’s County; Meo Curtis, Manager of Stormwater Permit Coordination, Montgomery County; and Steve Findley, Planning Supervisor, Park and Planning Commission.

“How a community handles their water challenges defines the difference between greatness and decline,” said Movahed. “The significance of communicating the important role of water in building sustainable communities was evident from the presentations and follow up conversations. Overall, the symposium was successful in initiating discussions to inspire holistic, creative and collaborative approaches for addressing water challenges.”

“This symposium was a positive talk for promoting collaborative efforts for water management in a sustainable and holistic manner,” said Dr. Mohammad Habibian, Environmental Group Leader, WSSC. “Now we need to walk the talk.”

“I would like to see action on the part of the symposium participants,” said Elaine Amir, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County. “I’m glad that the researchers and policy makers here are advocating water education and policy changes to document the reasons why funding is needed to protect and preserve water.”

Read more about the symposium in the Montgomery County Gazette.

To stay informed about future plans related to this topic, please contact Zohreh Movahed.

Water Symposium people talking

CATEGORY: Academics, Research, Featured