Our dependence on water has increased over the last few decades as population has increased, manufacturing has become more complex and recreational demands have developed. Greater water dependency also has resulted in greater water concerns.
Summertime brings periodic beach closings. Most of those closings are because Lake Michigan water has become contaminated with potentially disease-causing bacteria, primarily E. coli.
We also know that many chemicals leak into Lake Michigan. Some come from manufacturing processes. Others come from fertilizers added to our farms and lawns that flow within creeks and rivers and empty into Lake Michigan.
Contamination problems are further complicated by concerns that terrorists might deliberately add toxic chemicals or pathogenic bacteria to our water distribution system -- or possibly disable a waste treatment plant so our wastes contaminate our drinking water.
Purdue Calumet emerged, in part, to support mid-20th century industries. The university still does that, but it also has a strategic mission to advance the future of our region, and that future is dependent on a continued supply of high quality water. It is from that perspective that Purdue Calumet is developing its Water Institute.
Detecting disease-causing bacteria and toxic chemicals faster and with greater precision, destroying these contaminants so they do not harm people, improving industrial water treatment and distribution processes, and protecting our water from terrorists are just some of the significant issues and concerns the Purdue Calumet Water Institute plans to address.
A university is an ideal setting for addressing these matters, because it brings together various resources, including the intellectual capital of faculty, with expertise in biology, business, chemistry, engineering, construction, computer science, communication and other disciplines, plus students eager to apply and expand their knowledge through hands-on learning.
Universities are not just places that teach; they generate new knowledge that advances positive change. Similarly, the mission of a regional university, such as Purdue Calumet, is to advance positive change and economic growth within the region.
We cannot do this alone, however. As the Purdue Calumet Water Institute grows, it will grow partnerships with industries such as BP, sponsor of our water-related seminar series; other universities; federal, state and local government agencies; and prestigious research laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratory.
But most important, the Purdue Calumet Water Institute must partner with Northwest Indiana.
Over the next few months and years, those of us affiliated with the Purdue Calumet Water Institute plan to develop new programs that advance safer water treatment. We plan to work with local utilities to improve service, and we plan to deliver the results to you.
Please share your thoughts and suggestions by sending an e-mail to WaterInstitute@calumet.purdue.edu.