Earth Day 2022: Water on the Rise

April 21, 2022

Water and life are inextricably intertwined. Without access to adequate water, humanity suffers. Yet, water in extreme abundance can also become a destructive force.

We invite you to join us as we explore these concepts and more during the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Earth Day 2022: Water on the Rise. This day-long community learning event, featuring both in-person and virtual experiences, will examine how communities across the globe are facing, responding to, and mitigating critical water issues.

This event will be in partnership with Water@UW, which will continue the conversation on Friday, April 22, 2022, at the annual Water@UW Symposium.

Thanks to all who attended!

Program at a Glance

Our 2022 Earth Day learning event will feature a range of virtual and in-person educational sessions throughout the day. All sessions are free, but registration is required.

Register to view session replays
Already registered?

Water Justice in Wisconsin

This session has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Reimagining Our Relationship with Water

7-8:30 p.m. (in person and virtual)

Water and life are inextricably linked, making it one of the most important resources on the planet. Explore what is being done to protect this critical resource, including new solutions for sustainable water governance and innovative approaches to water preservation. Join speakers Kelsey Leonard, a water scientist, legal scholar, policy expert, writer, and enrolled citizen of the Shinnecock Nation, and Sandra Postel, the director of the Global Water Policy Project and 2021 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, for a meaningful discussion of these solutions and how they will impact our relationship with water.


  • Sandra Postel, founding director, Global Water Policy Project and 2021 winner of the Stockholm Water Prize
  • Kelsey Leonard, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Waters, Climate and Sustainability, University of Waterloo

Tribal_University Partnerships for Wild Rice Revitalization in the Western Great Lakes

9-10 a.m. (virtual)

Join tribal natural resource professionals and university partners for a panel highlighting wild rice revitalization work in the western Great Lakes. The discussion will focus on the cultural, social, and ecological principles that guide this work.

Hosted by the Nelson Institute Water Resources Management program

Community Partnerships for the Yahara Watershed

9-10 a.m. (virtual)

Join a panel of community partners for a discussion of the shared challenges and opportunities surrounding the Yahara Watershed. Builders, farmers, scientists, and policymakers will speak about the decades of work that has been done to address impaired waterways as well as current efforts and their impacts.

Hosted by the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability

The Colorado River Compact at 100

9-10 a.m. (virtual)

The Colorado Compact was designed 100 years ago to govern water allocations from the Colorado River. This panel will explore the fraught history of the compact, its legacy on the Southwestern landscape, and how governments and citizens are rethinking the Compact alongside a changing climate.

Hosted by the Nelson Institute Center for Culture, History, and Environment

Water for Food: Too Much or Not Enough?

10:30-11:30 a.m. (virtual)

Learn more about cutting-edge approaches to evaluate water quantity and quality in food and forage production systems during this exciting session. Findings and trends from Wisconsin and around the world will be discussed as well as computer modeling and field measurement techniques.

Hosted by the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment

Water@UW: Addressing Wisconsin’s Water Challenges

10:30-11:30 a.m. (virtual)

Explore the ways Water@UW is bringing together water-focused faculty, staff, and students on campus to foster connection and communication among members of the UW-Madison water community. Learn about the ways Water@UW strengthens bridges between UW-Madison’s water research and research being done across the state. This session will also focus on the urgent water challenges in the state including harmful algal blooms, road salt pollution, PFAS, and flooding.

Hosted by Water@UW

Land-Water Connections and the Ecological Impacts of Water Pollution

10:30-11:30 a.m. (virtual)

From local streams and far away seas to bacteria and whales, water supports life across many scales. Join researchers and practitioners for a discussion about the ways that land-water interactions, including inputs from agriculture, are influencing plants and animals on land, in lakes, streams, and oceans. And explore how local actions help biodiversity far downstream.

Hosted by the Nelson Institute Center for Ecology and the Environment

A Half Century of Environmental Cooperation: The U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

2:30-3:30 p.m. (in person and virtual)

April 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) between the United States and Canada. Explore the history of the agreement, and hear from a panel that includes U.S., Canadian, and Indigenous perspectives during this session. The panel will provide recommendations for protecting Great Lakes water quality in the future and discuss lessons learned from this agreement that may apply to other shared natural resources.

Hosted by the UW-Madison Law School and Laurie Carlson Progressive Ideas Forum

Mountains and 3 or 4 Rios (Rivers)

2:30-3:30 p.m. (virtual)

Literary readings and art from the bilingual anthology Montañas, and Three or Four Ríos, will be presented by co-editors Sarli E. Mercado and Lori DiPrete Brown. The session will feature the recipients of the José Emilio Pacheco City and Nature Literary Prize, including León Plascencia Ñol (Mexico), Jorge Gutierrez Reyna (Mexico), Brenda Becette (Argentina), Santiago Acosta (Venezuela/USA), Claudia Cabrera Espinosa (Mexico), and Marco Antonio Murillo (México). Eduardo Santana Castellón, who founded the prize and has catalyzed this collaboration, will share reflections on the nature and significance of this work in relation to Earth Day and the overall movement for environmental justice.

Hosted by the UW-Madison 4W Initiative

Working Together to Improve Wisconsin’s Water: How Community-University Partnerships Catalyze Water Quality Projects in Wisconsin

2:30-3:30 p.m. (in person and virtual)

Learn more about the UniverCity Year program and its efforts to address community challenges through UW-Madison and local Wisconsin government partnerships. Speakers will share how these partnerships have helped to improve water quality by highlighting projects such as those that addressed blue green algae in the Fox River to those that helped farmers to address nitrates in the groundwater. The speakers will also highlight the role students play in these important collaborations.

Hosted by UniverCity Alliance and UW-Madison Extension

The Okavango Delta: Opportunities for Regional Cooperation

4:15-5:15 p.m. (in person and virtual)

Join Botswanan Ambassador to the United States Kitso Mokaila and former U.S. Ambassador to Botswana Michelle Gavin for a discussion about the biodiversity value of the Okavango Delta. The speakers will explore potential for regional cooperation through shared water management goals in the Delta, and the potential of university collaborations to foster and support regional cooperation.

Hosted by the Nelson Institute’s Environmental Professional Programs and the UW-Madison International Division and African Studies Program

Water, Water, Everywhere, in the Air, in the Ice, in the Ground, and in the Sea: A Conversation About the Science of the Changing Global Water Cycle

4:15-5:15 p.m. (in person and virtual)

Life first evolved in and depends on water, but balance is essential, as too little or too much water creates challenges. A changing climate accelerates the water cycle and patterns of extreme precipitation and drought, melts glaciers, degrades permafrost, and raises ocean levels in ways that impact weather systems, ecosystems, and society. Hear from a panel of expert scientists from UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research (CCR), who will provide the latest research on these topics.

Hosted by the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research

Climate Resilience in the Electricity-Water Nexus

4:15-5:15 p.m. (in person and virtual)

Water is a crucial player in many of the ways we make electricity, and electricity is necessary for water pumping, treatment, and distribution. Our changing climate is leading to disruptions in water availability and extreme weather events that challenge both our energy and water infrastructure. Join us as we explore this relationship and what we can do to become more resilient and ensure equitable access to these life-sustaining goods.

Hosted by the Wisconsin Energy Institute and Nelson Institute Energy Analysis and Policy Certificate

Earth Day 2022: Water on the Rise ‘Confluence’

6-7 p.m. (Wisconsin Historical Society, First Floor)

Join us for the Earth Day 2022: Water on the Rise “Confluence” for an opportunity to connect with campus partners, network with attendees, and view art works from students participating in the Flow Project. No registration necessary.

The Flow Microgrant, housed within Water@UW, connected University of Wisconsin student artists with water professionals across Wisconsin to share a wide range of water issues across a diverse range of art forms. Artists spanned UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and UW-Green Bay, and worked with researchers at UW universities, scientists with the Department of Natural Resources, outreach specialists at the Wisconsin Sea Grant, and project managers at the Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.