Colloquium Will Examine Ancient and Modern Ways of Meeting Water Needs

April 1, 2010

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"H2O Old and New: Water and Our World" will be the subject of the annual Baylor University Colloquium on Ancient and Modern Political Inquiry on Wednesday, April 7, and Thursday, April 8, on the Baylor campus.

"In the Classics Department, we were looking for a topic of interest to the ancient and modern world, and given Waco's concern with water issues, this seemed a good one," said Dr. John Thorburn, associate professor and chair of the department.

"Whether it's present-day Waco or ancient Rome, a city's success can depend on how well its political leaders meet the challenges of providing its citizens with clean, fresh water," he said. "Thanks to engineering marvels such as the aqueduct, Rome, situated on a river four times shorter than our own Brazos, became one of the world's greatest powers. That was partly because it was able to manage successfully not only its own water supply, but also the water supply of an empire that stretched across three continents.

"To ensure our continued healthy lives, Waco and our world must find solutions to the issues that concern our water."

Here is the schedule for speakers and their topics:

• "Water and Waco: Can the West Be Won?" State Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, on the fifth floor of Cashion Academic Complex, 1400 S. Fourth St. Averitt chaired the Senate Natural Resources Committee and was a proponent of major water projects envisioned in a state water plan, such as moving water from rural areas to urban ones, the construction of reservoirs and encouraging conservation of existing water resources to meet current and future needs. He helped secure $750 million in water infrastructure funding for the state.

• "Water in a Cultural Context: The Case of Ancient Rome." Dr. Peter Aicher, expert on Roman aqueducts and professor of classics at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine, will speak at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 8, in Alexander Reading Room in Alexander Hall, 1413 S. Seventh St. Aicher, an expert on the architecture of ancient Rome, assisted the PBS series "NOVA" in making the documentary Secrets of Lost Empires: Roman Bath

• "Water in Modern Times: Adapting to a New Normal." Dr. Sandra Postel, author and founding director of the New Mexico-based Global Water Policy Project, will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 8, in the fifth floor of Cashion Academic Complex. Postel is a former vice president for research at the Worldwatch Institute, a nonprofit environmental research organization. She was named one of the "Scientific American 50" by Scientific American magazine in 2002.

The projected global population in 2025 is 8 billion people, and it is crucial to sustain ecosystems to support life and meet people's freshwater needs, Postel said.

Because of climate change, "this will require a new way of using, managing, valuing and even thinking about fresh water," she said.

Postel predicted that water productivity will need to double by the year 2025 to meet the global challenge.

"When it comes to rainfall, river flows, and water availability generally, the past may no longer be a good guide to the future, so we must adapt and prepare for uncertainties and potentially very different futures than the one to which we've become accustomed," she said.

"The new approaches we need will be much less about big pumps, pipes, dams and diversions and much more about ideas, ingenuity and ecological intelligence," she said. "It will require new ways of growing food and meeting our dietary and material needs with less water.

"But we can learn from some early civilizations about how to work with nature rather than against it, while also making more effective use of modern science and technology."

The free colloquium will be presented by the Baylor Honors College, Department of Classics, Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research, Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environment Sciences, the Department of Environmental Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Computer Science and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

For more information, please call (254) 710-3750 or

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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