Water sustains all life on the planet, but the limited natural resource -- stretched and stressed by climate change, economic development and global population growth -- now is one of the world’s most critical challenges.


To catalyze research and education on complex water issues, Northwestern University has established the interdisciplinary Northwestern Center for Water Research. Northwestern also is contributing to a larger initiative called “Current,” launched by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to make the Chicago region a water hub for economic and technological innovation. (Current was announced March 22 at the White House Water Summit.)

“The Current public-private partnership will make Northwestern’s Water Center even stronger,” center director Aaron Packman said. “Working with strong industrial, governmental and community partners will help us achieve our goal of developing global solutions for regional problems.”

Northwestern is one of the founding partners of Current, which represents the Chicago region’s water industry, the fourth-largest in the nation. Development of both the Northwestern Water Center and Current has been linked since the beginning, Packman said.

The Northwestern Center for Water Research will integrate research efforts across the University and focus on long-term solutions to ensure water security and sustainability, both regionally and globally. Outside collaborations with research institutions and conservation organizations as well as educational initiatives and public outreach events will be critical to the center’s success.

“We have a tremendous capability at Northwestern to solve diverse problems related to the global water crisis as well as to advance Chicago’s water economy through technological innovation,” Packman said. “Water sustainability and security touch every area of Northwestern, including science, engineering, law and medicine, and I know people are eager to be involved. The center will bring experts together to contribute to solutions through science, technology and policy.”

Packman is a professor of civil and environmental engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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