Water Stewardship – Interview with Prof. John Richardson from the Future Waters cluster @ University of British Columbia

In this newsletter, Assistant Professor Nadja Kunz (BRIMM, Water and Mining theme lead) interviews Professor John Richardson from the Future Waters cluster @ University of British Columbia

  • What is your position at UBC, and how did the UBC Future Waters cluster get established?

My name is Professor John Richardson and I am the Director of the Stream and Riparian Research Laboratory and a Professor (and former Head) in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences. 

The UBC Future Waters cluster emerged in July 2019 after more than a decade of interest in finding a way to connect water researchers spread out across a huge campus in dozens of different departments and many different faculties.  More than 100 researchers at UBC identify their research as being water related, but until recently there was no mechanism to bring people together as a collaborative.  The cluster aspires to provide a way for the diversity of water-related researchers to share and develop their common interests.

  • What kind of expertise does UBC have on water-related issues?

As a university, we have global leaders in water research across many domains.  In the sciences, we have researchers studying climate, hydrology, earth-surface changes, biology (e.g., salmon, ecology), water collection and processing, distribution systems, and water treatment, as examples.  All of these intersect with scholars studying policy development, equity, economics and legal aspects of water.  Moreover, health aspects of water through medical, dental and pharmaceutical lenses are subjects of study.  UBC also has historians, human geographers, and artists that consider the roles of water in society. We believe that as a cluster we can advance complex water issues in interdisciplinary ways that individual researchers cannot.

  • What are the goals of the UBC Future Waters cluster over the next 12 months?

The Future Waters cluster creates a forum to grow our shared interests in water across disciplinary lines.  We have created a monthly (on-line) forum for discussing general topics to learn about each other’s research, as well as a series of invited talks by international colleagues. Our hope is to build internal links to further a more collaborative approach to scholarly work at the university.  Moreover, we aim to create links to the broader community of practitioners and regulators, so that we can all benefit from sharing our expertise and learning what relevant questions we could work towards answering.

  • What are the opportunities for the BRIMM water theme to complement the goals of the UBC Future Waters cluster in future?

Over the next 5 months, the UBC Future Waters cluster will be running a series of research-to-practice workshops on a range of topics including Indigenous Water Rights, Integrated water modelling, and Water Infrastructure & Capacity Building. In late November, we’ll be launching our first workshop on water and mining which will be delivered in partnership with BRIMM. The goal of the workshop will be threefold:

  • Cultivate relationships across academia and practice in the area of water and mining, with a view of working towards mutually beneficial research partnerships;
  • Develop an understanding of the needs of industry, government and First-Nations rights holders with respect to managing mine water issues, and explain complementary capabilities offered by UBC; and
  • Identify priority themes for developing future research programs through BRIMM and the Future Water Cluster. 

If you’re interested in participating, please contact Kasey Moran at k.moran@alumni.ubc.ca.

  • Where can people go to learn more information about the Future Waters cluster, or to get involved?

This is our first year as a formal cluster and we hope to grow our understanding of each other, and increase our public profile as a university with enormous amounts of global expertise in water that often is unrecognized.

To learn more about the cluster, please review our website at https://water.ubc.ca, or contact me at John.Richardson@ubc.ca