The U Water Center was formed with the vision of creating a new way for academic researchers to solve local problems throughout the world. With the mission of achieving water security for all, the Water Center researchers seek to deliver solutions for sustainable and resilient water systems in Utah while also addressing problems globally related to access to clean water and sanitation, two of the most pressing development challenges facing the world today. The number of people in the world without access to safe drinking water is approaching one billion, and more children die from preventable water-borne diseases than any other cause. The potential of much of humanity is being stunted by issues related to water and sanitation. We at the U Water Center are motivated by a belief that water challenges, locally and globally, are surmountable, but the solutions will require a new kind of collaboration to build sustainable Communities of Practice composed of academic institutions, industries, NGOs, governments, and local communities.

Our approach is to serve as a hub and catalyst for interdisciplinary collaboration. Issues of water are complex, and must be approached through the lens of multiple disciplines or specialties. At the U Water Center we facilitate a dialogue between engineers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, humanists, social scientists, and others in search of new ideas, insights, and innovations. This collaborative effort then extends to make our research useful and relevant in developing new ways of thinking about the challenges of water, and how to create effective Communities of Practice capable of meeting these challenges.

We believe the University of Utah is in a unique position to serve as a leader in global issues of water and sanitation. The U is home to world-class centers and institutes with strength in water research that will be aligned by the Water Center, and spurred by a diverse and passionate faculty. Our community is also a product of geography. Utah is the second driest state in the Union. The history of our region is a history of learning to live within the limitations of water, and developing innovative systems and technologies that have allowed a thriving society to be built in an arid landscape. 

A key lesson from the past is the best approach to any sustainable development program doesn’t come from the outside-in, but works to empower individuals to solve the challenges facing their own local communities. That is why a central goal of the U Water Center is building up the capacity of people, and investing in strong and effective local institutions. Our Center serves as an incubator of ideas, and we will strive to create research initiatives, training programs, new technologies and systems, and curriculum. But in the end our goal is to provide communities in Utah and around the world with the knowledge to build a future where access to clean water no longer inhibit the fulfillment of their human potential.

Steve Burian