Thirst for solutions

Some of Canada’s most serious water-related challenges have prompted a number of new national projects led by University of Saskatchewan researchers.

By Chris Morin

We are in an era of profound change when it comes to water management, and unless these issues are addressed immediately, experts say things are only going to get worse.

That’s where the Global Water Futures program, led by Howard Wheater, U of S Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security and director of the Global Institute for Water Security, comes in.


“The hydrology of Canada is bound with our cold, which is comprised of ice, snow and frozen soils. And that hydrology is seeing drastic changes,” said Wheater. “One sign of this change is the Rocky Mountain glaciers are rapidly declining and will be mostly gone by end of century.

“In addition to the permafrost thaw changing the landscapes in the north—which is impacting industrial development and community access—Canada is facing significant financial losses from related issues such as floods and droughts.”

That’s why the U of S-led Global Water Futures (GWF) program is currently funding 11 initial research projects across Canada totaling nearly $16.2 million over the next three years to tackle some of Canada’s most pressing water-related challenges.

This latest announcement in June follows last year’s initial funding of $77.8 million for the GWF project—the largest university-led water research program ever funded worldwide and the most sizeable award ever granted to the U of S.

While the results of the program, including four of the initial projects led by members at the U of S, are yet to come, Wheater is already anticipating a number of developments that will address these water management issues.

“We are developing a number of tools that will help improve flood forecasting and predict algal blooms,” said Wheater. “We are also working on a new app that is geared towards users reporting extreme events with more efficiency.”

With 106 researchers from 15 Canadian universities involved in the 11 projects, Wheater stressed that the water management issues happening close to home ultimately extend far beyond our own campus borders.

“The world is looking to us with considerable interest to help solve these issues,” he said. “Water is fundamental to the quality of life and drinking water is at the most basic issues of health for everyone.

“These are big societal challenges we face, and we need to address them as soon as possible.