New master's degree in water security tackles complex issues

With the launch of a new master’s degree in water security—the first of its kind in North America—students will learn how to tackle complex issues concerning water availability and quality.

By Meagan Hinther
"Our university has one of the strongest water research communities in the world that is examining issues from an interdisciplinary perspective—that's the way we need to examine concerns such as drought, flooding and water quality," said Andrew Ireson, assistant professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) and the program's director. "The program will train students to tackle these issues using a holistic approach that incorporates not only the sciences, but also the study of social dynamics and public policy."

The Master of Water Security (MWS) program—offered through SENS—is a project-based and professional-style master's degree that trains students to investigate water security issues of regional, national and international significance.

"Certainly this summer of drought, wildfires and algal blooms in our province has brought water concerns to the forefront, and a realization that our struggles are likely to continue with climate change," said Toddi Steelman, executive director of SENS. "The MWS provides graduates with the tools to tackle the complex problems we are increasingly faced with."

Incoming students will choose from three specialized tracks: hydrology, hydrogeology and socio-hydrology. While the first two tracks study the surface water and the groundwater cycles respectively, socio-hydrology studies the dynamics between human use, control, value and culture related to water and its place in the global community.

"Having three specializations allows us to provide in-depth training in one area of water, such as groundwater, while also having students participate in core courses that broaden their knowledge of other aspects of water management, current global issues and how we plan in an age of climate uncertainty," said Ireson.

Graduates will be ready to become water scientists, managers and policy-makers in the consulting and government sectors. The first intake of students will begin September 2016, with applications accepted until mid-January.

Meagan Hinther is a communications specialist with the Global Institute for Water Security and the School of Environment and Sustainability.