State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Columbia Aquanauts Hope Passion for Water Issues Has Ripple Effect

“We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards. Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met.” –Ban Ki-Moon

Columbia Aquanauts
Columbia Aquanauts (From left to right: Nelson Dove, Colin Beck, Melissa von Mayrhauser, Savannah Kuper, Yoko Takemura, Rob Elliott)

Water management is at the forefront of today’s sustainability issues. The United Nations designated 2013 to be the International Year of Water Cooperation.  The period 2005-2015 is the International Decade for Action ‘Water For Life’. Water and Biodiversity was chosen as the theme for this year’s International Day for Biological Biodiversity.  It was as on this occasion that Ban Ki-Moon reinforced the importance of sustainable water management- under current trends, future demands for water will not be met.[1]

Two years ago, the pressing issue of water prompted a passionate group of Columbia students across a variety of disciplines to band together and form the Columbia Aquanauts. As the only club on campus focusing on water management, the Aquanauts aim to build a space where students can not only discuss their views and knowledge on the topic, but can also develop solutions for sustainable water use and share this knowledge with the campus community and surrounding environs.

“There is an increasing attention to and importance placed on water management today,” noted M.S. in Sustainability Management (MSSM) student Yoko Takemura, one of three MSSM students currently serving on the Aquanauts board. “Take, for instance, the curriculum of the MSSM program – there used to be only one water course and now the program has created an entire certificate on the subject.”

The Columbia Aquanauts, whose membership is comprised of undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral students from across the university, formed in the spring of 2011 as a research-based group working with the Columbia Water Center. Since then, the group has also worked on strengthening campus and community activism through various water-themed events such as “Make Your WaterMark,” where student speakers and industry experts came together to share their experiences, as well as the Hudson River Sweep with the New York Riverkeepers.

This fall, the Aquanauts Board is hoping to continue their mission of research and community activism through group research projects, which is currently being discussed with Upmanu Lall from the Columbia Water Center. Each Aquanaut will pursue a research project and receive guidance from one of our faculty mentors. The projects will be updated at each weekly meeting with a chance to open up the room for discussion on selected topics. Presentations and reports for the research will give each Aquanaut the skill to effectively communicate water issues.

The Aquanauts hope to expand their influence through activities in and outside of the Columbia community through an increased social media presence and a new website. For more information about the Aquanauts, including upcoming meetings and membership, please contact or visit the group’s website.



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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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