International expert Peter McCornick named next Water for Food Institute executive director

April 12, 2016

Peter McCornick, an internationally known expert in water, food and environmental research, has been named the next executive director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds announced today.


McCornick is currently deputy director general for research at the International Water Management Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka, one of the world’s foremost institutions dedicated to improving management of water and land resources to ensure food security and reduce poverty. He will succeed Roberto Lenton, who became the WFI’s founding executive director in 2012 and has led the institute through early phases of growth and success.

McCornick will assume his new role on Sept. 1.

“There is perhaps no more urgent challenge facing the world today than sustainably feeding the growing global population,” Bounds said. “The University of Nebraska, through our Water for Food Institute, is uniquely positioned to lead the way in developing solutions. We are fortunate to have attracted someone with Peter McCornick’s reputation and expertise to the executive director position. His deep knowledge of water and agricultural development in global contexts and his strong leadership skills will accelerate the impact the institute is making in ensuring water and food security in Nebraska and around the world.”

McCornick said, “Roberto set the stage for the Water for Food Institute’s global reach. I appreciate the tremendous work he has done in developing a strong team and growing the institute from an idea to a fully operational research center that is truly making a difference in improving water and food security for generations to come. I look forward to working with the University of Nebraska leaders, faculty and staff, as well as its many partners in the U.S. and internationally, to advance the institute’s achievements and impact.”

McCornick is among the featured speakers at the 2016 Water for Food Global Conference, which is April 24-26 at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln. The annual conference, which regularly attracts hundreds of scholars, policy experts, farmers and ranchers, and others from around the world, is a keystone of the institute’s efforts to share knowledge and affect change. Registration for this year’s event, titled “Catalytic Collaborations: Building Public-Private Partnerships for Water and Food Security,” is open until April 18.

In his role at the International Water Management Institute, McCornick has already worked closely with the WFI on research projects and events. He was instrumental in developing a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations that opened new opportunities for collaboration.

“Peter’s familiarity with WFI and how we leverage the university’s expertise and extend it through strong international partnerships is a tremendous advantage, as is his extensive experience in agricultural water management both in the U.S. and overseas,” Lenton said. “He is well known and respected among international leaders in water, agriculture and the environment, and is ideally placed to help take the institute to even greater levels of success.”

Ronnie Green, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor-elect, Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Interim Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs said: “We had a highly competitive and thorough international search to identify candidates after Roberto announced his planned transition from the position last year. I’m very pleased with the search committee’s work in attracting exceptional candidates and identifying Peter as the ideal person to expand the institute’s role as a global leader in water and food security through research and policy, education and communication.”

McCornick has dedicated his career to improving the understanding of sustainable management of water resources. He has led research and development programs on water, agriculture and the environment in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the United States. His areas of interest include water and food security, the water-food-energy nexus, water reuse, irrigation management, and water and climate adaptation. McCornick earned his doctorate degree in agricultural engineering from Colorado State University, is a licensed professional civil engineer in the State of Colorado, a member of the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers, and a senior fellow at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. He has published widely and regularly presents at major international events. McCornick was born in Scotland and grew up on a livestock and dairy farm.

Water for Food Institute Board Chair Jeff Raikes said: “I am grateful for Roberto’s leadership as he has built a globally recognized institute for the critical nexus of water productivity and food security. As we started the search process for Roberto’s successor, we aspired to find the right individual to take the wheel and guide the institute through its next phase of development. We are very fortunate to have found that leader – Peter McCornick.”

About the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute

The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska was founded in 2010 to address the global challenges of achieving food security with less stress on water resources through improved water management in agricultural and food systems. The institute is committed to ensuring a water- and food-secure world while maintaining the use of water for other human and environmental needs.

The University of Nebraska has invested in four interdisciplinary, university-wide institutes – including the Water for Food Institute – that leverage talent and research-based expertise from across the campuses to focus on complex state, national and global challenges.

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Melissa Lee
Director of Communications, University of Nebraska