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New WATER Institute At St. Louis University Aims To Solve Big, Wet Problems

July 23, 2020 Amanda Cox Rachel Rimmerman
Provided by St. Louis University

Water isn’t just the most important substance on Earth. It’s also an astonishingly complicated one. Too much can be just as big a problem as not enough.

A new initiative at St. Louis University aims to tackle some of the biggest problems surrounding water, and to do it across disciplines. The Water Access, Technology, Environment and Resources Institute, better known by its apropos acronym WATER Institute, launched last month with funds from the SLU Research Institute.

The WATER Institute’s new director, Amanda Cox, is also a professor of civil engineering at SLU. She explained on St. Louis on the Air that the initiative is the result of a “Big Ideas” competition at the university, aimed at identifying university-wide research priorities.

Prior to the competition, Cox said, “we had a number of exceptional faculty doing water-related research, and several of them were already doing collaborative projects. We came up with the idea for the WATER Institute to leverage our expertise even more towards collaborative efforts.”

It already has multiple projects underway, with three key, interlocking areas of focus: developing clean water access at home and in the developing world, protecting aquatic ecosystems and improving water infrastructure.

Rachel Rimmerman, the institute’s administrative director, explained that the coronavirus pandemic led to a brief pause in plans to launch, and led to some changes. But it didn’t delay things much.

“St. Louis University is working on the forefront of the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment investigations as well,” she explained. “But we also recognize that water is a huge issue that will be ongoing that we need to continue paying attention to. We really wanted to be able to start moving forward with things.”

She added, “Water is so fundamental, it also plays a role in how we respond to this pandemic. It’s really connected to all the different critical issues going on in our world today.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.