Ruple visits Pakistan to address looming water crisis and water security

In Pakistan, reliable drinking water is accessible to less than 15 percent of the population, inadequate sanitation contributes to preventable waterborne diseases, and inefficient water management leads to distribution inequities. These problems will increase as Pakistan’s population grows, climate change impacts water availability, and as reservoirs fill with sediment and lose capacity. As the country’s government grapples with how to manage a looming water crisis, Pakistani officials turned to the University of Utah recently for guidance on how to find solutions to keep Pakistan from reaching a severe water scarcity that some officials fear may overwhelm the country by 2025.

John Ruple, a research professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, recently traveled to Pakistan at the invitation of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan and the Pakistan Supreme Court. Ruple spoke at a conference on water security as a representative of the U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water at the University of Utah. 

The center began in 2015 as a strategic partnership between the University of Utah and Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET). Today, the partnership fosters collaboration between higher education, government, business and communities working together to effectively guide sustainable development policy through water research.

MUET brings the water sector network, curriculum, and community interface to the collaboration. The U Water Center brings expertise in trans-disciplinary water research, global engagement, technology and venture commercialization, and faculty development. The S.J. Quinney College of Law and the Wallace Stegner Center brings expertise on water law and policy the project.

“Pakistan has very severe water supply problems that are made worse by climate change, rapid population grow, and inefficient management. They are very concerned about providing adequate potable water and enough irrigation to grow the food they need to feed their population,” Ruple said.

He attended the invitation-only conference with government officials from Pakistan as well as scholars from the U.S., Australia, and South Africa who are dedicated to helping the country find solutions to its problem.

Ruple shared lessons learned from management of the Colorado River. He discussed ways to create the institutions and relationships needed to manage a finite resource in an atmosphere of growing demand and increasing supply uncertainly.

He will continue to research the topic in collaboration with other colleagues at the U, Harvard University, and the MUET who are also studying Pakistan’s water shortage.