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UC Students will Explore the Maya Riviera and the Many Issues Surrounding Its Waters

UC Honors students will visit a historic site to get real-world experience with water conservation and to study the social, political and cultural concerns.

Date: 12/2/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Rob Pasquinucci
Phone: (513) 556-5087

UC ingot   Falling from the sky during a rainstorm and collecting in flowing rivers and streams, water is a basic necessity that is seemingly abundant. But climate change, privatization and poor management are placing the world's water resources under stress. UC Honors students will take a deep dive into this topic in an honors course called Water Justice. The class will travel to the Maya Riviera this month to explore issues of water governance in this historic setting.

The Riviera Maya is a pristine river system that provides Mexican residents on the Yucatan Peninsula with the only source of freshwater in the area. This unique river system is currently under threat from human contamination, pollution and plans for development.

“In the classroom, we learn about water scarcity and quality using scholarly sources. When we are at the Maya Riviera, students have the opportunity to study these issues in concrete terms,” said professor Adrian Parr, director of the Taft Research Center and UNESCO co-chair of water accessibility and sustainability at UC, who is leading the trip. “The goal is for students to come away with a deeper understanding of the ways in which different factors intersect in shaping how water is accessed and conserved. The study of water is not just a scientific or technological issue, it is cultural, social, economic and political.”

Students will be exploring underground rivers called aquifers to learn how activity on the street level is affecting the water sources below. The Maya ruins are another stop along the journey where the class will discuss how the Maya used and managed their water resources in the past.

Parr traveled to the area last year and is excited to share her firsthand experiences with her students. Since mass tourism within the Maya Riviera makes conserving water difficult, the group will be staying at a local ecological accommodation to give them a deeper understanding about how water is accessed and conserved at the community level.

The class will spend its time learning and understanding this ancient water system through field trips to the Maya ruins, wading through underground river systems, snorkeling at Sian Kaan (a biosphere reserve), eating locally grown produce and traditional recipes, and lots more.

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