SFU attracts water star Zafar Adeel to lead new centre

July 13, 2016

By Wan Yee Lok

Zafar Adeel is very aware of his water footprint. He limits his meat consumption, turns off the tap when brushing his teeth and even takes one-to-two-minute “navy showers” when visiting water-stressed countries such as Kenya and Tajikistan. A prominent and internationally-respected water luminary, he joins SFU’s Pacific Water Research Centre (PWRC) as executive director.

Established less than a year ago, PWRC brings together researchers, academics and experts to look at various water issues that concern not only the SFU community but also the Canadian and international communities. The centre provides a platform for a range of research, from water’s influence on communities and human wellbeing—particularly First Nations and indigenous communities to water ethics, resource management, and coastal ecosystems.

Adeel's directorship with PWRC will include overall leadership, strategic planning and management, research, teaching, community engagement and communications. He hopes to position PWRC as a major contributor in influencing global policies and knowledge, and put Canada on the map for water research.

“Water is going to be the most important issue internationally in the years to come, even more important than climate change,” says Adeel.

“When we talk about climate change, what we’re actually concerned about is what climate does to water, such as changing rainfall patterns, snow distribution, floods and droughts. With PWRC, I hope to influence Canada to develop a national framework and vision for water. Canada has the research talent, technological expertise and resources to drive positive change internationally.”

A civil engineer by training, Adeel chaired UN-Water from 2010–2012, coordinating water-related work in 30 United Nations organizations. He has also led an international task force on water security at the request of the UN, which has explored water challenges and solutions across the world. Prior to his role at SFU, Adeel served ten years as the director of the Hamilton, Ontario-based United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.  In this capacity, he mobilized over $25 million in resources for the institute.

“Dr. Adeel brings a wealth of experience and understanding of water issues to students,” says Ingrid Leman Stefanovic, dean of the Faculty of Environment.

“His work is highly esteemed by both academics and practitioners—a reputation that aligns perfectly with SFU’s engaged vision. I am sure that staff, students and faculty members will benefit greatly in working with a leader who is highly collaborative and a man of such high integrity. Frankly, he is recognized in the water community as a star.  We are honoured to have attracted him to SFU.”