Global Institute for Water Security Launched
March 22, 2011
A new Global Institute for Water Security was officially launched at the University of Saskatchewan today, with a vision to be a driving force for research into global issues that have local implications. These include drought and flooding on the Prairies and nutrient loading from urban and agricultural runoff in Lake Diefenbaker.
Howard Wheater, who holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Water Security at the U of S, made the announcement at his Convocation Hall lecture today, United Nations World Water Day.
“Our institute will act as a catalyst for new interdisciplinary science, providing pump-priming funding to work with our provincial and federal partners to support these very large projects,” Wheater said. “We’ll be looking at some of the world’s biggest problems in water, starting with Canadian examples and issues of real importance to Saskatchewan and other Prairie provinces.”
The new institute is hitting the ground running, buying equipment and hiring staff to be ready for investigations into this spring’s runoff. With the ground saturated and snowpack levels at higher than average levels in many parts of the province, this spring promises to yield vital information on how prairie systems respond to flooding.
“We think it might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture such an extreme melt,” Wheater said.
Another major project will be to look at Lake Diefenbaker. One of Saskatchewan’s tourist gems, the lake receives runoff from local urban and agricultural areas and is also filled by water that flows through Alberta’s cities and farm country. This means heavy nutrient loading, which has researchers worried that the lake may be heading for the same fate as Manitoba’s Great Lakes, with toxic algae blooms driven by nutrient overload.
“We want to make sure that Lake Diefenbaker is not the next Lake Winnipeg,” Wheater said.
The institute builds upon a leading expertise and capacity in water research at the U of S, which is recognized as one of the university’s signature areas: Water Security: Stewardship of the World's Freshwater Resources. These are research areas in which the U of S aims to be a leader in Canada and among the best in the world.
Five U of S Canada Research Chairs and one NSERC Industrial Research Chair engage in various aspects of water research, as do more than 70 other faculty. U of S graduates from these programs are highly sought after by employers in industry, government and regulatory agencies.
By 2017, the institute will bring to campus another 85 researchers—six new faculty, 20 post-doctoral fellows, and 48 graduate students. The world-class research and training institute is co-located with Environment Canada’s National Hydrology Research Centre at Innovation Place.
The institute, approved by University Council on March 17 as a U of S research centre, will be funded through the CERC, a $30-million, joint federal-provincial-university commitment over seven years. One of only 19 CERCs in the country, it is the largest investment in a research chair in the university’s history and one of the single largest water research investments in the world.
The institute will improve water use and management, advance water policy, and provide new tools for environmental risk assessment and remediation applicable to all types of natural resource development.
For example, knowledge gained will result in better modeling of hydrological systems for flood and drought management; better policy development and improved prediction of safe drinking water supply; and better understanding of oilsands remediation problems and agricultural water use and pollution.
Multi-disciplinary science and social science teams will work with industrial and government partners to address three broad research themes—climate change and water security; land-water management and environmental change; and sustainable development of natural resources.
Wheater, one of the world's foremost experts in hydrology and sustainable freshwater resource management, has his finger on the pulse of water issues nationally and internationally.
For example, he provides expert counsel on Alberta’s newly created environmental monitoring panel, aimed at creating a world-class monitoring and evaluation system for oilsands development. He also chairs a national panel looking at water needs for sustainable agriculture in Canada, and is an expert member on the international court of arbitration handling a treaty dispute between India and Pakistan regarding the fate of a dam on the Indus River.
His announcement today came in conjunction with his lecture “Water Security and the Perfect Storm”, delivered as part of Water Week at the U of S, featuring a lecture series, a seminar for students, a feature film a and a concert. For more information, visit www.usask.ca/water/water-week.php.
For more information, contact:
University Research Communications
School of Environment and Sustainability & CERC Office