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Global water crisis being tackled by this leading Australian university

Australian universities have fared particularly well in the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings (WUR), with a leading water academic saying one Australian university’s research is helping guide interdisciplinary thinking in terms of the global water crisis.

Ranked 48th in the 2018 WUR, and second in Australia to the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University is helping tackle the global water crisis through the ANU Water Initiative.

According to ANU Water Initiative Chair Professor Quentin Grafton: “The aim of the ANU Water Initiative is to support interdisciplinary research in the context of water. But it’s also about going beyond research and having an impact in terms of real-world outcomes,” he said.

Although the work of academic facilities is sometimes considered theoretic, Quentin said interdisciplinary knowledge creation and transfer is crucial to achieving global water goals due to the severity of the problems at hand.

“Climate change is one that comes to mind for most people at first, with water, food and security issues a part of that,” he said.

“These issues are so vast and the challenges are so big that you really do need that interdisciplinary approach in order to bridge those divides and gain a clearer understanding and actually achieve outcomes.”

Quentin said the ANU Water Initiative’s research-field collaboration helps create new ways of thinking about problems, which is of paramount importance within the current global context.

“From my personal perspective, making sure our knowledge creation gets out to people who make decisions about water is very important. The next 30 years are probably the most significant time in human history,” he said.

“Unless we manage the next 30 years well, we will be in serious trouble by the time we get to 2050. We must not think that it’s going to happen automatically. Change is required and that involves multiple things.

“The ANU Water initiative is part and parcel of what we are trying to achieve internationally.”

The initiative currently runs four major interdisciplinary water research projects, including: the Climate Risk ProjectAustralia-United States Climate, Energy and Water Nexus ProjectNational Centre for the Groundwater Research and Training; and the Climate-Water-Energy Links (CEWL) Projects.

Quentin said the initiative that’s most exciting for him at the moment is the facility’s work with the Geneva Actions on Human Water Security.

“It has three actions dealing with human water needs, aquifers, streams and rivers, and water governance. Several members of the ANU Water Initiative signed onto on the Geneva Actions 7 July,” he said.

“It speaks volumes of what we are trying to do: work in a collective, collaborative way to bring our knowledge and understanding and experiences to actually make a difference.”

Take a look at the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings here.