Water.org official to speak during Earth Week activities this month

April 8, 2015  

Rich Thorsten

Rich Thorsten 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The director of international programs for Water.org will visit Purdue University this month during Earth Week for a Discovery Lecture Series talk on the global problems of those who live without safe and basic sanitation.

Rich Thorsten, director of international programs at Water.org, will speak at 7 p.m. April 20 in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. His lecture, "The Value of Capital in Securing Safe Water and Sanitation Today and Tomorrow," is free and open to the public.

"We are happy to have Thorsten come speak on an issue that is both a major global issue and a grand challenge that is a priority of our research efforts at Purdue and in Discovery Park," said agronomy professor Ron Turco, director of the Purdue Global Sustainability Institute and the Purdue Water Community. "He has the experience and knowledge to provide a tremendously insightful talk on the water issue."

Water.org is a nonprofit organization that works to provide more time for families, enhance public health, and provide individuals with basic needs through water sanitation and deliverance.

The organization acknowledges that water and sanitation issues cannot be tackled by charity alone but needs the intellectual, financial and social expertise and attention that Water.org seeks to provide in a variety of innovative ways, including WaterCredit programs and solutions for long-term success with local partners. Water.org has already provided access to safe sanitation and water to hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia and Central America.

As director of international programs, Thorsten oversees the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the water and sanitation programs and works closely with development and communications on public relations and donor projects.

"I have centered my professional life on improving the quality of life of current and future generations while safeguarding our environment," Thorsten said. "My experiences in different parts of the developing world has opened my eyes to the daily perils of families who live in absolute poverty and the promise of enabling those less fortunate to improve their lives and restore their dignity through sustainable development."

Prior to joining Water.org in 2007, Thorsten spent nearly 15 years in the sustainability and nonprofit management field. He also worked with U.S. resource conservation and smart-growth organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and state governmental agencies. His experience and expertise includes nonprofit management, advocacy, research, evaluation and international development. But his most specific and impactful contribution has been in water.

While pursuing higher education, Thorsten worked with the World Food Bank evaluating the sustainability of multiple rural water systems in Peru and Ghana while also studying public-private water and sanitation partnerships in Asia. Additionally, he participated in an international development education and training program in India.

Thorsten holds a bachelor's degree with a concentration in economics, and master's and doctorate degrees in international planning.

The Purdue Water Community and the Purdue Global Sustainability Institute in Discovery Park are joining the Lilly Endowment as primary sponsors for the Discovery Lecture. Through a $1 million gift to Discovery Park from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, Purdue launched the Discovery Lecture Series in 2006 to bring prominent speakers to campus.

The Purdue Water Community facilitates water-related research, teaching, and engagement to improve and sustain human and ecosystem health. GSI coordinates research efforts in sustainability challenges such as climate change, energy, food security, the environment and water.

Writers: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Paige Pope, 219-363-2599, popep@purdue.edu 

Source: Ron Turco, 765-494-1610, rturco@purdue.edu

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