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Partnering for water

By Rebecca Cohoe | April 22, 2010

When was the last time you thought about where your water comes from?

A new pilot partnership between SIFE Memorial and the Harris Centre aims to change this province’s often ambivalent relationship with the wet stuff.

Beginning next week, the two groups will be travelling the province spreading the word on water.

SIFE will teach high school students why water is such an important issue through interactive workshops, while employees of the Harris Centre will gather insight and information on local water challenges through a series of community hall focus groups.

Water issues are top of mind for the Harris Centre these days. Last fall Memorial received an $800,000 grant from RBC, to be directed through the centre, constituting the largest donation to an Atlantic Canadian university that the bank has ever made.

When SIFE Memorial approached the centre about working together on water-related projects, it was an easy decision.

“The students of SIFE Memorial have so much energy and passion, it‘s inspiring,” said Karen Follett, knowledge mobilization co-ordinator at the Harris Centre.

The goals of SIFE Memorial’s DROP water conservation project are closely aligned with those of the RBC Water Research and Outreach Fund, including a shared focus on rural communities.

“At Memorial, we deal with these issues in our studies, but they really demand that you engage on a community-level," DROP project manager, Anna Marie Megens explained. 

It’s also a natural fit for the Harris Centre. As the knowledge mobilization hub for public policy and regional development at Memorial, making connections between the university and the province’s regions is a daily activity.

And, it’s not just about making sure that Memorial research makes it out to the people and regions who could benefit from it: input from community members and groups is an important factor in ensuring the relevance and direction of Memorial’s research activities.

“The water tour is an opportunity to flip the familiar top-down structure on its head. We’re asking questions, gathering information and listening to the people who best understand the water challenges in rural Newfoundland -- those who live there,” said Ms. Follett.

Another key aspect of the tour is that it will focus not only on municipal leaders, but also on high school students, all part of a plan to encourage community involvement at an early age.

The better that young people understand the importance of water issues, the more likely they will be to make informed choices about water as they become the key decision-makers in their communities.

According to Ms. Megens, getting the conversation started on water makes sense on plenty of levels

“By doing this we can save money, we can save time and we can improve our health and quality of life.”

For more information contact Chelsey Laird at claird@mun.ca.


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