Mayors from Great Lakes, Middle East to sign water pact

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

Leaders from both regions will sign the agreement and take part in a joint panel session April 24 at 5 p.m. during Water After Borders: Global Stakes, Local Politics, a two-day University of Illinois at Chicago summit that will focus on strategies for sharing water across political, geographical and cultural boundaries.

The mayors and representatives expected to participate at the conference include: Palestinian Mayor Hassan Jirmi; Jordanian Mayor Khalifah Suliman Mohammad Aldayyat; Israeli representative Ran Molho; Mayor John Dickert of Racine, Wisconsin; Mayor Mitch Twolan of Huron-Kinloss, Ontario, Canada; and Mayor Denis Lapointe of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada.

The Sister Waters participants will be expected to “facilitate technological, business, educational, capacity-building and community exchanges through sister city and sister water relationships, including workshops, site visits, and opportunities for technical experts, municipal administrators, business leaders, and youth delegations, subject to available funding, and to jointly pursue sources of funding to sustain and enhance the partnership’s associated activities.”

Conference organizer Rachel Havrelock, founder of the Freshwater Lab, a new UIC-based think tank on water issues, says the pact will benefit the civic leaders and residents of both regions.

“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 Havrelock, who is associate professor of Jewish studies and English at UIC. “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 partnerships will be facilitated by EcoPeace Middle East, an Israeli/Jordanian/Palestinian trilateral organization dedicated to environmental peace-building, and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition aimed at protecting and restoring the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

The Water After Borders summit is April 23-24 at UIC’s Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted St., Room 605. Admission is free and open the public; advance registration is encouraged. Details on registration, panels, participants andĀ representedĀ organizations are online.

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