Lab Canada

New $30M institute to study water resources

Saskatoon, SK – A new Global Institute for Water Security was recently launched at the University of Saskatchewan, with a goal to be a driving force for research into global issues that have local implications.

The institute is headed by Dr Howard Wheater, who holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Water Security at the university.

“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,” he 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 institute builds on existing expertise and capacity in water research at the university, where five Canada Research Chairs and one NSERC Industrial Research Chair engage in various aspects of water research, as do more than 70 other faculty.

By 2017, the institute will bring to campus another 85 researchers-six new faculty, 20 post-doctoral fellows, and 48 graduate students. The research and training institute is co-located with Environment Canada’s National Hydrology Research Centre.

The institute is the result of a $30-million, joint federal-provincial-university commitment over seven years which was announced last year. 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.

Dr Wheater is one of the world’s foremost experts in hydrology and sustainable freshwater resource management. 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.