Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

6th International Conference on Sustainable Water Environment
Clayton Hall
July 29, 2010

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I am honored and delighted to welcome you to the 6th International Conference on Sustainable Water Environment. As you likely know, it is the first time this critically important conference has been held in North America, and the entire University of Delaware community is deeply proud to serve as its host.

University of Delaware
While the University of Delaware isn’t among the United States’ biggest universities—we enroll about 21,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students—we are among its oldest. This historic University—a privately governed, state-assisted institution—traces its roots to 1743, and its first class included several men who would prove instrumental in the founding of this young nation.

I was fortunate to assume the presidency of the University of Delaware in 2007. One year later, the University community embraced a sweeping strategic plan to strengthen the University’s global influence and impact. A core goal contained in that plan is to serve as an international resource for environmental research, technology, education, and policy. I couldn’t be happier to see that goal so powerfully advanced today.

Of course, planning this conference has been an enormous undertaking, and there are many people and organizations I must thank for their substantial effort and support.

Let me start with the two men up here with me right now: Michael Chajes, dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering, and Tripp Shenton, chair of the College’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dean Chajes and Professor Shenton—and many more faculty residing both inside and outside the College—have done an extraordinary job bringing this conference to fruition, and securing the participation of so many esteemed guests.

Much of that work fell to our conference director—the University of Delaware’s Donald C. Phillips Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, C.P. Huang. We are deeply indebted to Professor Huang for the incredible amount of time he has dedicated to this conference and the obvious enthusiasm he brought to the task.

We are, in fact, indebted to the entire International Organization Committee, composed of the world’s foremost experts in sustainable water environment. I’d like to specifically acknowledge one member of that committee, Professor P.C. Chiang of National Taiwan University. Of course, Professor Chiang organized the first of these conferences in Taiwan, and—this morning—the powerful legacy of that inaugural conference is clear. We’re honored to have him join us today.

I’d like to acknowledge the Local Organization Committee, composed of faculty from the University of Delaware’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the University’s Water Resources Agency, our Department of Geological Sciences, and our Center for Energy and Environmental Policy. I thank all the members of the International Program Committee, who formulated a clear and compelling vision for this conference and—today—will see that vision made real.

Allow me to recognize a few distinguished committee participants: Georgia Tech Professor John Crittendon, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering; Iowa State University Professor Jerry Schnoor, also a member of the National Academy of Engineering; and Professor Juihui Qu, from the Chinese Academy of Science.

Joining us from the National Science Foundation is Dr. Paul Bishop, Program Director of the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems Division. Dr. Bishop will present a keynote address on the need for enabling research in water sustainability.

And joining us from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is Dr. Audrey Levine, National Program Director for Drinking Water, and Dr. Chuck Noss, National Program Director for Water Quality. Dr. Noss will discuss their paper on safe and sustainable water.

We are profoundly grateful for the invaluable contributions of these scientists and policymakers, and we are equally grateful for the generous support of the organizations they represent—NSF and the EPA—which are underwriting this conference.

Importance of the Conference
There are compelling reasons why so many individuals and organizations have come together to support this conference. Water is our most important natural resource, and its deteriorating quality and diminishing quantity worldwide necessitate an immediate and globally coordinated response.

With the utterly devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, attention has been refocused on our fragile water environment and the measures we must take to secure it. Conversations about water sustainability are happening not only in the academic community, but in the lay population the world over.

And so we have an opportunity here: We have an opportunity to maintain the public’s attention on critical environmental issues and to focus it on the urgent need for safe and sustainable water: 1.1 billion people around the globe live without clean drinking water; 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation; 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhea diseases; 3,900 children die every day from water-borne diseases. There are yawning disparities among the world’s regions in the daily per-capita use of water, and while the world’s population tripled in the 20th Century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold.

Over the next 50 years, the global population is projected to grow 40–50 percent. This sharp growth, coupled with industrialization and urbanization, will significantly increase water demand, strain our water resources, and yield serious environmental consequences. Attendant climate change will produce extreme hydrological events—more frequent flooding and droughts—which will further weaken our water-resource infrastructure, and contribute to the dramatic deterioration of water quality.

We have to address the over-exploitation of water resources and the human-related stresses that threaten our water security. And, by continuing this important tradition of bringing together the world’s most influential scientists, engineers, professors, and policymakers, we will do precisely that.

We have an enormous challenge in front of us, but—as I just said—an even greater opportunity. And we have assembled right here in Newark, Delaware, nearly 200 experts from all six inhabitable continents—the experts most equipped to seize that opportunity, and secure for generations to come a sustainable water environment.

Over the next 2½ days, 130 technical papers and 60 posters will be presented. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll host two high-level parallel sessions on research needs for water security and sustainability.

I’m delighted to share that the publishing company Elsevier will produce a special issue on “Technology for Sustainable Water Environment” in the Journal of Separation and Purification Technology. Professors C.P. Huang, of our own University of Delaware, and Chip Elliott, of Penn State University, will serve as the special issue’s guest editors.

There are clear objectives associated with our work over the next couple of days:

  • To raise global awareness about the impacts of climate change on our water environment, and to publicize our responses to those impacts.
  • To promote global networking and research alliances focused on sustainable water environment.
  • And to foster water sustainability through technology, conservation, and reuse.

I wish you all the very best as you work together—as one global community—on achieving our overarching goal and keenest imperative: ensuring safe, secure, sustainable water for all the world’s people.

Thank you.

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