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First-of-its-Kind Global Water Experiment for Students Launches on World Water Day
March 21, 2011 | By NEIL HAWKINS
Water is the single most important chemical compound for the preservation of life and human progress, yet close to a billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water—that’s one in eight people. In my travels around the world, I have seen first hand what the lack of clean drinking water means for whole societies --- and also for individuals struggling to just survive.
March 22 is World Water Day. Designated by the United Nations, World Water Day is an opportunity for the world to focus its attention on water resources, challenges and opportunities.
A great deal is already being done. Global water shortages are being addressed today through conservation efforts as well as innovative technologies; technologies for which chemistry and the chemical industry play a pivotal role. Reverse osmosis, ion exchange, ultrafiltration, electrodeionization and arsenic removal media are all tools that make water safer, cleaner and more available. These components enable applications such as seawater desalination, contaminant removal and water reuse so that global water resources can more effectively satisfy human and industrial needs.
World Water Day also coincides with the launch of the Global Water Experiment, one of many activities taking place globally this year to inspire future generations of scientists as part of the International Year of Chemistry. Students around the world will be invited to perform a variety of water-related experiments that test the water in the communities where they live and share their results in what may become the largest chemistry experiment ever. Results will be electronically showcased in an interactive global data map at the end of 2011.
As global partner of the International Year of Chemistry, Dow is proud to be a sponsor of this activity not only because is it a fun way for young people to explore chemistry, but also because it’s an opportunity to begin a global conversation and learning journey about one of our most precious natural resources.
The only way that the global water challenge will be addressed is through collaboration. This is needed at all levels --- international policy levels --- regional levels --- and at the individual level. A key first step on that journey is increasing awareness. That is why Dow collaborated with the Keystone Center to develop a high school science module called “The Balanced Equation” to help raise awareness of the challenges around water, but also the promise of chemistry and chemical technologies to help solve the challenge. We are privileged to continue to partner with Keystone to bring this module to thousands of teachers and from there tens of thousands of students!
It is our responsibility as leaders in the chemical industry to not only recognize and highlight water issues, but to apply our considerable capabilities as scientists and engineers to create solutions. It’s also our responsibility to be educators on how chemistry and the chemical industry are the catalyst for helping to solve world challenges, such as the global water crisis. This is a responsibility that we take seriously at Dow, because for us, every year is an International Year of Chemistry.
For more information and/or to engage a group of students in this experiment, please visit http://water.chemistry2011.org.
Neil Hawkins is Vice President of EH&S and Sustainability for The Dow Chemical Company.