Bridging the Gap between Science and Policy at the PWRC

March 25, 2020
Credit: World Water Week

Written by Teghan Acres

“There might be enough fresh water for people currently living on Earth. However, access to that water is not always possible for everyone.” These are the words of Xin Wen, one of the newest Research Associates at the Pacific Water Research Centre. Water scarcity refers to the lack of freshwater resources to meet water demand. The World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Risk Report identifies water crises as one of the top five risks to humans in terms of impact. Projecting water supply and demand at global and regional scales is difficult, however Wen says that the challenge of this pushes her to constantly learn and think creatively which keeps her work interesting.

Wen has extensive experience in environmental policy assessment to support decision-makers in environmental management. She has researched a variety of water-related topics as well as worked in cost-effectiveness assessment of soil and water conservation projects. Her main research interests are water management and environmental policy assessment. Wen’s PhD project looked to understand the long-term impacts of land use change and climate change on water-related ecosystem services in a semi-arid region in China. The endeavor drew on her skills in GIS, remote sensing, hydrology, soil science, climate change and ecosystem services research.

She is now applying these skills to the PWRC’s ‘Costing Floods and Other Extreme Events’ project. This project is in collaboration with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, working to create a standardized methodology for assessing the cost of extreme floods in North America. Wen is using her background in policy assessment to study the proposed methodology in reference to geographic data from Canada, Mexico and the United States. This will strengthen the project’s output by ensuring its usefulness and effectiveness.

This project is all about cooperation and collaboration. To that end, the initiative will create learning and research opportunities for college and university students who are working towards becoming leaders in environmental issues. These students will be engaged in research and co-op placements at partner agencies. Youth perspectives in understanding the economic costs of extreme events will be a key element of this project. Water scarcity and flooding are both wicked problems facing us not in the future, but now. One of the PWRC’s key functions is to bridge science and policy. Wen is fulfilling this purpose through her current project and will pass that on to emerging leaders through youth engagement.  Learn more about this project from our blog post, Collaborating to Develop a Common Flood-Costing Methodology.

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We respectfully acknowledge that the PWRC operates on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.