By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 18, 2012
When first-year Quest University student, Noelani Forde, submitted her course assignment to Earth-Oceans-Space tutor, she hadn’t completely realized the full impact it would have.
Two years later, the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) has published a paper, co-authored by Forde and her professor Rich Wildman, inspired by that very same assignment.
The paper evaluates current policy regarding the management of the endemic imbalance in water supply in the Colorado River Basin.
It also explores the viability of interstate water trading as a way to make the system more flexible in times of water shortage.
Forde was enrolled in a science class where she derived an economic and policy solution to a complicated science and engineering problem.
“Here we have a first year student contributing to the policy debate surrounding a major issue of our time,” enthuses David J. Helfand, Quest’s president.
“A broad liberal arts education is often viewed as impractical or not relevant to real world issues.
To the contrary, this inter-disciplinary approach to education is precisely what is needed to produce original and creative solutions to complex societal problems.”
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is currently wrapping up a major study to assess options to resolve the imbalance between supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin.
The final study will present policymakers with analyses of options to address this issue.
Forde and Wildman’s paper has been submitted in response to the Bureau’s solicitation for comments and ideas from the public for how to solve the problem.
The original school assignment required students to calculate the water balance of the Colorado River’s Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, and to predict when the reservoir will run out of water if municipal and agricultural users continue to consume more water than flows down the river in an average year.
“Olenka’s answer to this assignment was impressively elegant and insightful,” says Wildman, who was teaching the Earth-Oceans-Space course as a visiting professor at Quest.
Wildman was so impressed with Forde’s work that he approached her about co-authoring a paper with him.
Forde, who has now completed her third year at Quest, is still trying to process it all. “We’ve been working on this for so long now, and I still can’t quite believe that it has really happened,” she said from her Calgary home.