Greetings from the WVU Institute of Water Security and Science (IWSS). We in the Institute hope this finds you emerging from the busy spring in anticipation of a productive summer. We’re pleased to highlight a few Institute activities and IWSS Affiliate achievements over the past few months in the accompanying articles and note that these are only a few of the great things happening in water across the WVU campus and around the state of West Virginia.
Budget challenges are on all our minds and naturally bring concerns for the future. In such times it is good to revisit how we came our chosen professions and to draw resilience from our inner moral philosophies that drive us to serve as engaged participants striving for greater stewardship of the resources upon which we so intimately rely. There is broad agreement that fresh water will increasingly be among the greatest stressed resources in the coming decades (and beyond). We are therefore at the precipice of a moment in history when we have an opportunity to redefine the philosophies of water that intuitively guides management decision making processes. Coupled to this moment is the implicit decision to continue to be, or become active participants in that process. Now is indeed a time for action. We have much to do and while we are right to feel concerned about fiscal challenges, we must also forge ahead in pursuit of sustainability and stewardship.
Aldo Leopold coined the term, “land ethic” in his 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, that provided similar context. Leopold wrote of the necessity for a new way of thinking (a moral philosophy) about the relationship between human beings and the land and the organisms that carry out their natural history in partnership with it. Leopold suggested that ethics needed to expand to include non-human and abiotic factors of the biological community. Now is our moment to provide that clarity. The concept of a water ethic is something that transcends political governance including overarching policies such as the United States Clean Water Act (CWA). This is because, by definition, if humans are observing a sustainable stewardship of water, humans are also sustaining quality of the resource. It is somewhat ironic then that if humans are able to achieve a sustainable water ethic humans may have greatly reduced need for regulations such as the CWA and diminished need for regulation enforcement, accompanying taxation and political agendas. The issue becomes moot.
It is thus our task to develop a cultural instinct that includes an underlying philosophy that when the quality, quantity, aesthetics and resilience of water are met humans are best managing the resource to be sustainable. In this sense, not unlike the tenants of which Leopold spoke, humans ascend from a controller or conqueror of water, as history might currently reflect, to a steward of the resource. West Virginians have a deep, intense appreciation for water resources management, and there is much work to do. The strengths of the West Virginia University Institute of Water Security and Science lie in our core faculty and staff, and currently over 250 affiliates, external collaborators, collaborative institutions graduate students, and postdoctoral research associates who define, design, and carry-out research and outreach projects on behalf of the Institute, Institution and State in the constant pursuit of water sustainability and security. This newsletter showcases some of those pursuits and achievements.
In challenging economic times, like those we currently face in West Virginia, we can fully appreciate the diverse opportunities water resources offer in the state. The IWSS is pleased to provide the University, state, and nation with a conduit of expertise and scientific advancement to lead our constituencies forward into a new age of water resources stewardship. We thank all our colleagues, affiliates and supporters for ongoing participation, and we invite you to forward this newsletter to your colleagues who can easily subscribe below. Stay tuned for many coming IWSS initiatives and opportunities.