The hills are covered in thick, green foliage. Howler monkeys swing through the canopy, while brightly colored birds and butterflies perch on the branches of the lush forest. Water flows down the mountains in great cascades—a result of the 84 inches of rain that fall here annually.
Costa Rica seems like a strange place to study water insecurity. And yet, there are challenges in this waterscape: population growth, increasing agricultural demands for water and land, and a lack of infrastructure and policy to protect natural resources from contamination. The average person in San Juan de Peñas Blancas faces tough questions about their water supply: Is it safe? Is it affordable? Is it reliable?
These questions are at the heart of Wendy Jepson’s research. Jepson is a professor of geography in Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences and the lead researcher on the Water Security Initiative (WSI), part of the university’s Institute for Sustainable Communities and Environmental Grand Challenges Program. The WSI seeks to address the global water crisis through research, teaching and engagement with local communities. Its focus is household water and sanitation as well as governance, policy and climate change resilience.
Water is a hot topic globally and at Texas A&M. In a comprehensive report, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that access to high-quality water is not just an agricultural or human health issue, but a major peace and security issue. By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to live in countries or regions with ‘absolute’ water scarcity, while two-thirds of the world’s population could be under ‘stress’ conditions. The polluting of clean water sources further threatens access to safe drinking water and increases the tension between water needs of people, agriculture, nature and industry.
Solving the complexity of the global water crisis will take the brightest minds from many disciplines. “Through the initiative, we’re creating a larger community to tackle these questions,” Jepson said. “The initiative will catalyze research by Texas A&M faculty working around the world to help researchers from different disciplines find each other and explore these issues with greater synergy”……..
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