Access to a Life-Giving Resource

Access to a Life-Giving Resource

It’s a sunny summer day in America’s finest city. A group of educators, students, government officials and community partners watch a flock of birds fly low over a distant sandbar, but bird watching isn’t their priority — water justice is.

In August 2021, the University of San Diego Water Justice Exchange launched its inaugural Ideation Collaborative event — teaming up with campus and community partners to explore solutions to water justice challenges in the San Diego and Tijuana regions. 

Created by faculty in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences, the Water Justice Exchange is an initiative aimed at breaking down silos to encourage cross-discipline collaboration around water justice issues. This two-day workshop fostered dialogue and project ideation and enabled participants to engage directly with water challenges through a site visit to the Kendall Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve. At the end of the event, project proposals were submitted, with some proposals receiving funding awards to jumpstart ideas.

“The Water Justice Exchange is meant to be a USD-centralized initiative that really brings people from different parts of the campus community together to address issues around local water justice,” says Odesma Dalrymple, PhD, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering. Dalrymple, along with Marissa Forbes, PhD, an adjunct assistant professor of integrated engineering, and Drew Talley, PhD, an associate professor of environmental and ocean sciences, are the three co-creators leading the program.

Funded through the university’s Envisioning 2024 strategic initiatives, the Water Justice Exchange aims to advance solutions to local water issues. “We’re interested in doing that in a boundary-spanning way, partnering with people across disciplines, across organizations and across institutions with this tenet of exchange,” says Forbes. “We call it an exchange to capture this notion that we’re in a bi-directional or multi-directional flow of ideas and resources between partners.”

For the faculty members, encouraging collaboration from different disciplines ensures that a multitude of perspectives are included in brainstorming possible solutions to water justice challenges. 

“I think by having a diverse set of people working together, we helped shed light on some of these more difficult issues and have come up with some really innovative ways to address them,” says Talley.

Future forward, the three faculty leaders see success as both funding the initiatives that form from collaborative events like this one, but also through advancing knowledge about local water challenges and everyone’s role in addressing them. 

“Thankfully, there is a real awakening now in our culture where people are starting to pay attention to issues of diversity, equity and justice and so we’re trying to make it so that everyone has access to these valuable resources,” says Talley. “Resources don’t get much more valuable than water.”

— Allyson Meyer ’16 (BA), ’21 (MBA)