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The Daily Wildcat

 

    Updated: Earth Day sees festival at Main Gate Square, Biosphere 2 water symposium

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    Gordon Bates
    Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

    The UA celebrated sustainability this weekend with a number of Earth Day festivities on and off campus.

    On Saturday, Biosphere 2 unveiled the Omani Falaj Water Oasis, in conjunction with a symposium on water management. The people of Oman have been creating and maintaining artificial springs in the Arab country, which has a similar climate to Arizona, for more than a millennium.

    After looking at how the Omani used their irrigation system, called a falaji, researchers in the Biosphere 2 were able to build a model of a new sustainable oasis.

    “It is very relevant today in Arizona where we’re clearly going to run out of water one day,” said Peter Smith, the project’s director and a professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. “We need to remember how we did things in the past. The Omani system is one of the ways we could use in the future.”

    Lori Radcliffe-Meyers, a second-year graduate student studying landscape architecture and one of two students who helped design the oasis, said the system will provide a sustainable way to deliver water in the future.

    The 10-foot long model shows a water-harvesting technique that uses gravity, which makes it efficient, she said. The Omani people still use this system today and have roughly 3,000 functioning falaj systems throughout the country.

    “We are very proud to have put a physical landmark that marks the relationship between the UA and Omani,” said Sultan Hamdoon Al Harthi, mayor of Muscat and head of the Sohar Development Office.

    Although the science behind the oasis is “ancient,” it provides a critical strategy to how scientists can save water in the state, said Joaquin Ruiz, executive dean of the Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science and dean of the College of Science.

    “This is extraordinary,” he said. “The way of life of Omani and their ways of managing water should bring a way of thinking to us, like in semi-arid environments like in Arizona of the way of sustainability.”

    Students on campus also celebrated Earth Day on University Boulevard at a festival hosted on Friday by the Students for Sustainability.

    Organizations like the Compost Cats and UA Community Garden as well as businesses like the Technicians for Sustainability, a local solar panel company, attended the campus festivities. The Earth Day celebration aims to get UA community members more involved with sustainability efforts on campus, said Sarah Smith, the event’s director and a junior studying Spanish and creative writing.

    Joe Abraham, director of the Office of Sustainability, said the event is entirely student-run and student-initiated. The event, he said, helps show the university how dedicated it is to creating a more sustainable environment.

    “I think this shows that we have a community that really cares about this and cares about a more sustainable future, as well as making it a part of our daily lives, and celebrating it,” he said.

    Alyssa Hinchman, a member of the Solar Cats and a senior studying molecular and cellular biology and veterinary sciences, said that in its fourth year, the festival united student clubs and businesses for an important cause.

    “This promotes awareness, but it also gives them an opportunity to have a day out with the family,” she added.

    Editor’s Note: The original version of this article misstated the title of Joaquin Ruiz. That error has been corrected. The Wildcat regrets the error.

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