Olcay Ünver, professor of practice at The Polytechnic School, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, has dedicated more than three decades of his professional career to water management and sustainable development. Most recently, his work in the field was recognized by the International Water Resources Association, or IWRA, which honored him with a Crystal Drop Award.
This prestigious award is given by the IWRA every three years and recipients are nominated by their peers for their groundbreaking work toward improving the world water crisis.
“[The Crystal Drop Award] holds immense personal significance as it serves as a testament to the efforts and contributions that I have made toward sustainable development, resilient livelihoods and preservation of our natural resources,” says Ünver, who is a faculty member in the environmental and resource management program.
Ünver was nominated by Anthony Slatyer, one of the founding members of the Water Policy Group. Recommendation letters were also sent in his favor from Gilbert Houngbo, chair of UN-Water, Eduardo Mansur, director of the Land and Water Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, and Tom Soo, executive director of the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research.
Ünver has worked for several United Nations platforms including the FAO and United Nations Education, Culture and Science, or UNESCO. During his time at the UN, Ünver produced the first gender-mainstreamed and gender-audited World Water Development Report, contributed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #6: Clean Water and Sanitation, conceptualized and co-authored FAO’s flagship State of Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture and served as UN-Water’s vice chair. He is also a co-author of the Water Policy Group’s annual Global Water Policy reports.
In the classroom, Ünver brings a global dimension into discussions of water resource management. He hopes to give his students a big-picture look at how humans and ecosystems interact with each other and how these interactions need to be handled sustainably using science-informing policy.
“Our footprint on water resources is way too large at a time when its drivers of change, human demands, climate change and environmental degradation have accelerated. This calls for urgent and transformative action in agricultural practices, industrial and household uses as well as in our lifestyle preferences,” Ünver says. “Water is essential to life, and so many people do not realize it until it is too late.