Stroud™ Water Research Center rolled out the red carpet for 24 water systems experts from 23 different countries who gathered at its rural southern Chester County campus to learn how to best protect their home countries’ water resources.
The group was part of the Water Resources Management delegation of the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
“The IVLP is exceptional because it connects people from different countries who work in the same fields with one another. Afterward, they stay in touch to help one another address problems in their own countries,” said Ann Stauffer, executive vice president of Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia, the nonprofit organization that coordinated the visit.
FINDING SOLUTIONS TO THE GLOBAL FRESHWATER CRISIS
The group listened attentively as Stroud Center director Bernard W. Sweeney, Ph.D., spoke about the global freshwater crisis and how Stroud Center’s local and international efforts are helping to resolve the crisis.
He also told them about an extensive literature review he did with Stroud Center colleague Denis Newbold, Ph.D., in which they concluded that effectively protecting a stream from human impacts requires maintaining a 100-foot forest buffer on each side.
Melinda Daniels, Ph.D., Stroud Center’s fluvial geomorphologist, explained that restoring watersheds has the triple benefit of reducing downstream flooding, improving water quality and improving the ecosystem for native plants and animals.
“I am very interested in learning how to deal with floods and drought,” said Bunthida Plengsaeng, a legal officer at Thailand’s Department of Water Resources. “I am also interested in learning how to improve water governance and coordinate better between many government agencies.”
Jinjun Kan, Ph.D., Stroud Center’s microbial biologist, showed the delegation how Stroud Center was measuring water-quality improvements at sampling sites in Landenberg and Strickersville after landowners implemented watershed best management practices (BMPs) and comparing those results with a control farm in the same watershed, where no BMPs were implemented.
HARNESSING THE POWER OF CITIZEN SCIENCE
Assistant Director Dave Arscott, Ph.D., a research scientist, told visitors about Stroud Center’s many resources for citizen scientists, such as the Leaf Pack Experiment Stream Ecology Kit, which helps people assess the health of their regional waterways by examining the number and types of aquatic insects they find, and WikiWatershed, a suite of online resources where anyone can share and get information about watersheds and how to protect them.
Afterwards, the delegates gathered around a table where Shannon Hicks, Stroud Center’s research engineer, demonstrated a variety of inexpensive data loggers and radios she built using open-source hardware and software to make a real-time water-quality-monitoring station. Hicks invited them to join Stroud Center’s online community at EnviroDIY.org to learn more about do-it-yourself environmental science and monitoring.
“I was happy to learn about so many techniques for water-quality monitoring that I can take back to my country,” said Jimmy Jaghoro Hilly, senior environmental health officer at the Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
He added that he plans to use some of the sensor instruments and the Leaf Pack Experiment Stream Ecology Kit he learned about at Stroud Center.
INCORPORATING GREEN TECHNOLOGIES
“To me, Stroud Center’s green building is most interesting because it includes rainwater recycling, use of solar energy and aerobic compost toilet,” said Abdullah Al-Muyeed, Ph.D., technical advisor at WaterAid Bangladesh.
He added that he needed to incorporate green technologies as water-supply and sanitation components and was developing course curricula on green technologies for graduate students.
Despite their differences in native language, the delegates chatted, laughed and, of course, huddled for selfies.
Senior Scientist John Jackson, Ph.D., explains the wet-lab system that allows Stroud Water Research Center to raise aquatic insects under controlled conditions in order to study the effects of toxins and thermal pollution.