Students join in worldwide water discussion
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After listening to corporate, educational and community leaders talk about the world's water supply and the obstacles that make it difficult to get fresh water to some 3 billion people around the globe, Cameron Elles, a senior at Montour High School, thought of a way he could help.
"I could take shorter showers," Cameron said.
That's exactly the kind of thinking organizers of Wednesday's event, presented by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and hosted by South Park High School, hoped for from 550 high school students who participated.
The goal of the event was to educate students about the global water supply and the demand for clean water for drinking, agriculture and business. Western Pennsylvania has an abundance of water from its three rivers, but the students heard about arid parts of the world and underdeveloped countries with water but no distribution or filtration systems.
Cameron, who plans to study environmental science at Penn State's Behrend College, came up with his shorter shower idea after presenters urged the students to think of ways they could conserve water in their own lives.
Students from Aliquippa, Montour, Allderdice, Brashear, Plum, Riverview, Shaler Area, South Fayette and Woodland Hills high schools participated in the summit.
Linking via video conference were students from Avonworth, McKeesport, Springdale, Wilkinsburg, Bethel Park and Fox Chapel. In addition, high schools in South Africa, Brazil and Italy participated.
The day started with a panel presentation by Bill O'Rourke, Alcoa's vice president of sustainability and environment and health and safety; Timothy Mech, a professor at Grove City College and chairman of Deep Springs International; and Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh.
The panel explained the economic, environmental and geographic difficulties of getting water to some areas of the world. Dr. Mech's organization works to bring safe drinking water to regions of Haiti by providing filtering devices and buckets with spigots that eliminate the need for people to put their hands into the water supply for a drink.
Mr. O'Rourke explained that the world's largest water bodies -- the oceans -- can't be used as significant water sources because the desalination process, which removes salt and minerals, is currently too expensive.
A student from South Africa suggested creating genetically engineered plants that would need less water and another student from Spain talked about improving the desalination process.
"What we want the students to take away from this is a total awareness of the issues," said Heather Nyapas, a Woodland Hills social studies teacher. "We want it to really hit home."
First Published May 20, 2010 12:00 am