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Unique UN Environment GEMS course gets to the source of water problems

4 May
Group work at the GEMS/Water CDC training course on designing monitoring programmes held in Nairobi, December 2017

A UCC-based United Nations Environment centre has created a unique Postgraduate course to teach potentially life-saving water quality monitoring techniques to developing countries.

The UN Environment GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre is part of UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the Environmental Research Institute.

In September 2017, the Centre rolled out the PGDip Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Assessment, with the aim of recruiting students already involved, or seeking to specialise, in water quality monitoring and assessment.

Debbie Chapman, Director of the Centre, explains that the course – a two-year, part-time programme run through e-learning – aims to provide the ‘missing information link’ for developing countries where poor quality water is a life-threatening norm.

“People literally gather the water from wherever they can for their daily water needs, and they have no idea whether it’s of good quality or not,” Debbie says.

“They don’t realise that it’s important to know the quality of the rivers, the lakes, the ground waters and reservoirs.”

Through the Diploma course – which supports the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the Centre aims to raise awareness and provide the skills to help rectify this issue.

Students in the first module – all 20 of whom are studying remotely, in Africa and the Caribbean – are learning the essentials of developing and implementing a monitoring and assessment system for the quality of rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ground waters.

Students are learning how to tell if water is fit for use, the possible causes of pollution, and how to determine the quality of the water; combining laboratory techniques, data handling and even field work.

Many of the students are already working for the Governments of their countries, which means they can directly apply what they learn to meet their own national needs as well as international requirements.

And graduating with these vital new skills, the students will have an even greater impact in their local and national communities.

“It’s really important to get countries to realise that, if you monitor the water quality it is the first step in the process of taking care of everything else – your health and your economic development,” explains Debbie.

“Because you need water of good quality for domestic use, jobs, business, industry, safe irrigation of food crops - all of those things depend on the rivers, the lakes and the ground waters that we use.”

Contact: gemscdcadmin@ucc.ie

Environmental Research Institute

University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork

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