Protecting drinking water at forWater

Tuesday, January 10, 2023
by Bethany Helaine Poltl

Learn more about forWater, a national research network focused on drinking water protection in a changing climate, from Green Office ambassador Elanor Waslander.

Tell us about forWater

forWater is the NSERC Strategic Network for Forested Drinking Water Source Protection Technologies. Network research is focused on managing the connectivity between forests and the water that originates within them. The goal is to ensure that drinking water security is resilient to increasing threats from climate change associated landscape threats such as, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. This pan-Canadian collaboration started after a landmark international paper identified landscape management as a key to ensuring water security in a changing climate and set out research areas to find effective mitigation and adaptation tools

What inspired this initiative at Waterloo? What sustainability issues does your group support? 

forWater was formed to answer the question of whether forest management strategies impact source

forWater researcher in stream

water and if so, how, and for how long. With this insight, water utilities can reduce risk to water security in the future by reducing the potential of landscape disturbances (wildfire, flood, hurricane) while not adversely affecting the water quality for millions of consumers downstream. Monica Emelko and Mike Stone from the University of Waterloo, alongside Uldis Silins from the University of Alberta, led the formation of the transdisciplinary Network. The Network supports the sixth SDG goal: ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. 

What was a memorable experience that you feel can or does have an impact on campus/community or more?

A project that has had a positive impact in our Network is the training events hosted by forWater for Young Professionals. The week-long source-to-tap training (ST3) brings together 40+ Master’s and PhD students, industry professionals, and professors. The training exposes students to real-world challenges professionals face while providing safe, clean, and reliable drinking water in different watersheds across Canada. Students have shared that the peer-to-peer discussions, insight into stakeholder dynamics, and access to industry experts amongst the highlights of the week. This year’s training took place on Vancouver Island, BC. 

What is your vision of a sustainable future?

A new approach to source water protection that builds resilience in communities to the impacts of climate change is one that combines both grey and green infrastructure (i.e., techno-ecological nature-based solutions). The Network does intensive transdisciplinary work to further critical research that will address risks to water quality and treatability in the five major ecozones in Canada. Globally, forWater is the first of its kind to bring together such a diverse group of researchers and stakeholders to tackle this wicked challenge. The vision for the forWater Network is to ensure safe, reliable drinking water for all, now and in the future. 

Do you have any resources for those who are interested in learning more? 

forWater team
forWater facilities