SALT LAKE CITY — The leaders of the University of Utah and Mehran University of Engineering and Technology traded memorandums of agreement Tuesday in the new campus law building, formalizing an academic partnership for water research.
Although the signing of a memorandum of agreement does not bind either party by law to uphold agreements made regarding the project, the documents are treated with the highest respect by both institutions.
"Utah and Pakistan surely share common ground in this sector. We both cope with water scarcity and the need for better ground management," University of Utah President David Pershing said.
The partnership will serve as a model of cooperation, address critical water issues and train the next generation's water professionals, Pershing said.
The educational partnership is part of a program known as United States-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Water and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
Academic programs resulting from the project will include master's and doctorate degrees in three water disciplines at Mehran University, which provides many opportunities for research and will be the primary center for the project because it's located in the water-stressed Sindh province of Pakistan.
According to M. Aslam Uqaili, vice chancellor of Mehran University, the higher education institution received nearly 500 applicants for 50 positions in the upcoming academic water programs.
Meanwhile, U. faculty, staff and students will have several research opportunities as they collaborate with Pakistani academics and five other partner institutions, including Colorado State University.
"It aligns very well with strategic priorities of our institution," said Ruth Watkins, head of academic affairs at the U.
Watkins said the partnership will help bring in expert faculty to the University of Utah, assist in achieving the school's environmental goals, and increase the presence of women in technology and science.
Participating parties are also hoping the pending research will address four overarching water problems in Pakistan: surface and groundwater availability, hazard and risk management, environmental quality, and climate change.
"The situation in Pakistan, as far as water scarcity is concerned both for human consumption as well as for agriculture, is something that really does need to be tackled," said Hamid Asghar Khan, consul general of Pakistan in Los Angeles.
In some areas of Pakistan, young children die from the lack of proper drinking water, Khan said.
Finding water solutions Pakistan is just the beginning. United States Agency for International Development officials are hoping new technology will be applicable to other water-stressed regions throughout the world.