Sharing water across political, cultural boundaries

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Conference organizer Rachel Havrelock (right) with Kellen Marshall, doctoral candidate in ecology and evolution. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Mayors from the Great Lakes and the Middle East will sign a pioneering agreement at UIC that links their cities through a “Sister Waters” partnership that addresses critical water issues.

The leaders will sign the agreement at “Water After Borders: Global Stakes, Local Politics,” a summit Thursday and Friday on strategies for sharing water across political, geographical and cultural boundaries.

“The agreement will enable mayors in a war torn region to adapt long-standing models of water sharing from the abundant Great Lakes region,” said conference organizer Rachel Havrelock, founder of the Freshwater Lab, a new UIC-based think tank on water issues.

“State-of-the-art conservation technology from the water poor Middle East will also help U.S. and Canadian mayors to implement systems that value every drop of precious fresh water.”

The two regions have much to learn from one another, said Havrelock, associate professor of Jewish studies and English.

“Residents of the Jordan Valley can learn from the long-standing treaties and binational cooperation of the U.S. and Canada.

“The example of cross-border water planning in the Middle East can inspire the Great Lakes region to connect cultural communities and empower diverse groups to manage shared waters.”

The partnerships will be facilitated by EcoPeace Middle East, an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian environmental peace-building organization, and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

The Water After Borders summit will be held in 605 Student Center East. Panels and workgroups will cover topics such as U.S.-Canadian water issues and challenges such as algae blooms, oil spills and pressures to export water from the region.

Admission is free and open to the public.