Research Theme - Water and Health

Water and human health are strongly connected. At the Global Institute for Water Security, we bring together world-leading expertise from multiple disciplines to address issues of importance both here in Saskatchewan and internationally.
Our water and health research addresses four strategic priority areas:

  1. Water supply for rural and Aboriginal communities, with a strong Northern focus;
  2. Drinking water quality in developing countries, including issues of arsenic and salinity in Bangladesh
  3. Public water supply issues addressing questions such as: How safe is our water? What are the public perceptions of that safety?
  4. Health impacts of the legacy of resource development activities (Minerals, Oil Sands)

Current Projects and Team Members

  • Safe Drinking Water - epidemiologic studies and risk assessments of drinking water contaminant exposure in Rural and Northern Saskatchewan (Bharadwaj, Waldner, Wilson)
  • Source Water Assessment and Protection program for communities in North-West Territories and Nunavut (Bob Patrick)
  • Quality of Rural Drinking Water in Saskatchewan (Cessna, Liber, Wheater)
  • In Land and Life: Cadmium and Health Implications for Indigenous Communities in Central Alberta (Giesy, Jones)
  • Drinking Water Salinity and Heath in Bangladesh (Ireson, Wheater)
  • Arsenic in Drinking Water in Bangladesh (Pickering, George)
  • Endocrine Disruptors in Surface & Drinking Water (Giesy, Hecker)

Water and Health – The Global and Canadian Context

  • Approximately 46% of deaths world-wide are attributed to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
  • Access to clean drinking water and sanitation is a key issue for rural and First Nations communities in Canada.
  • Water supplies may have natural contaminants (e.g. arsenic), or become contaminated through human, agricultural or industrial activities.
  • Some standards used to monitor drinking water quality are controversial, for example, medical evidence to support widely-adopted criteria for nitrates in drinking water is relatively limited, and standards for pesticides vary widely across countries.
  • Many infectious diseases such as cholera, malaria, dengue fever, schistosomiasis and lymphatic flirasis, are transmitted through water. Globally, 200 million cases are associated with schistosomiasis and 25 million cases are associated with lymphatic filariasis.
  • Nutrient levels are increasing in rivers and lakes due to human activities, which can produce blue-green algae under certain conditions. These algae produce toxins capable of killing animals and harming human health. Climate change is likely to exacerbate this issue.
  • Flooding, drought and environmental degradation associated with climate change directly affect human health through death and disease. They may also have long term effects on mental health.

Group Members

Brenda Allan (VIDO-InterVac), Helen Baulch, Lalita Bharadwaj, Buck Buckingham, Allan Cessna, Lorne Doig, Tom Ellis (CLS), Tasha Epp, John Giesy, John Gordon, George Graham, Markus Hecker, Jeff Hudson, Andrew Ireson, Karsten Liber, Paul Jones, Wolfgang Koester (VIDO-InterVac), Bob Patrick, Ingrid Pickering, Michael Pietrock, Bruce Reeder, Cheryl Waldner, Howard Wheater, Aaron White (VIDO-InterVac) and Lee Wilson