Participants from all over the world, both young and old, focused on the earth’s most precious resource during World Water Day on 22 March.

Once again this year, World Water Day on 22 March was the occasion for a social event with global appeal. This key resource is often taken for granted in the northern hemisphere, but water supplies are very limited further south. However, what all our organisms have in common is this basic need for water, which keeps us alive. But what are the sources of drinking water?

Under this year’s motto “Making the invisible visible”, we pay special attention to groundwater. Although it may not be visible, groundwater is of crucial importance. After all, even in Baden-Württemberg, more than 70 per cent of drinking water is obtained from groundwater. Groundwater is recharged by the infiltration of precipitation. Research conducted in recent years shows that groundwater is declining due to climate change. As the scientists see it, only half of the world’s groundwater reserves are likely to be fully replenished over the next century.

Kids experiment at the water lab

SRH University Heidelberg draws attention to these problems by organising a variety of activities for kids. The aim is to address young people in particular, because it is they who will have to contend with water scarcity in the near future. Professor Dr. Ulrike Gayh, head of the Water Technology degree programme, teamed up with Dr. Enis Yazici, Dr. Kenneth Bedu-Addo and three of her students to plan interesting hands-on activities – both online and on site – that enable kids to understand water science. The students were on standby to help the children as they went from station to station, trying out water experiments on topics such as water purification, neutralisation, capillary action and fluid mechanics of water, boats and robots. “It is only thanks to your extraordinary commitment that we managed to make the children’s eyes light up on the subject of water,” stated Professor Dr. Gayh, as she thanked her trainee water scientists. Lotta, aged six, enjoyed all of the stations: “But what I liked best was being able to dye water using bits of paper.” What did she learn that day? “A lot! For example, that you can use sand to clean water. Even though you would think that sand looks dirty.”

In a painting contest held not just on World Water Day, kids are invited to upload pictures they have painted to an online map of the world. Participants have included not only children from Germany, but also kids from Mexico, India and Ghana. Thanks to donations in kind from the German Association for Water, Wastewater and Waste (DWA), ProMinent and the Stadtwerke Heidelberg, the youngsters who participated in the water lab and the painting contest were given small prizes and tokens. Gym bags containing the prizes were also sent to India, Ghana and Mexico.

Scientists in exchange

But not only kids were welcomed by SRH University Heidelberg – 30 water experts from Serbia, Ghana, Bhutan, Nepal, Honduras and Iran were given the opportunity to discuss the latest research results in an International World Water Day Online Conference hosted by SRH University Heidelberg. The conference focused on issues ranging from water scarcity and groundwater pollution to water treatment and innovative water management solutions. In a poster presentation, a selection of Master’s students described the ideas behind their research projects.

Rally through Heidelberg

The event concluded with a water rally that enabled participants to explore the water and architectural highlights of Heidelberg using the Explorer app – both online and on site. “Being a city on the river, Heidelberg obviously has many great starting points for a rally on the topic of water,” remarked Shozeb Javed, who moderated the event, and his fellow student Sonam Tamang. “Participants from all over the world really enjoyed it.”

“Flow” – a new water project for the interested public

In this “citizen science project”, researchers from SRH University Heidelberg join forces with citizens from the Heidelberg region to explore the ecological status of flowing waters in the neighbouring Odenwald. By doing so, they make an important contribution to the collection and evaluation of water data in a bid to protect freshwaters in Germany. Interested members of the public are invited to register on the SRH University Heidelberg website for the studies, which will take place in May and June. The first study will be conducted at the „Ochsenbach“ in Schatthausen on 10 May, in collaboration with NABU Wiesloch.

World Water Day also marked the start not only of the next round of the YIP (Your Ideas to Practice) project with the Universidad del Valle de Atemaja/Mexico, which is supported by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation, but also of the DAAD project Democratia-Aqua-Technica in cooperation with the University of Novi Sad in Serbia.

Further links:

YIP: https://yip-aqua.org/

Initiative Democratia-Aqua-Technica: https://democratia-aqua.org

Poster session for World Water Day 2022: https://democratia-aqua.org/poster-session-2021/

Summer School Neckar Now (22–28 August 2022 at SRH University Heidelberg): https://www.srh-hochschule-heidelberg.de/en/projects/school-of-engineering-and-architecture/summer-school-neckar-now/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hshd_water_technology/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu5DLDUNNEMUuocARDv3zKw

Water Technology degree programme: https://www.srh-hochschule-heidelberg.de/en/master/water-technology/