The University of Waterloo has been recognized as Canada’s most innovative university for 27 years running. Innovation in water education and research comes naturally at the Water Institute.

“I joined the Collaborative Water Program to learn more about the wicked water problems we’re currently facing, and to learn from students outside of my home department. This interdisciplinary setting provided an atmosphere that most students have never experienced. It really helped me think outside of the box – and outside of my engineering silo – allowing me to see how I can contribute to the bigger picture.”

Navid Bizmark
Postdoctoral Research Associate,
Princeton University
PhD, Chemical Engineering (Water)
University of Waterloo, 2017



Jointly delivered by 11 academic units, and coordinated by the Water Institute, the Collaborative Water Program is the most interdisciplinary water graduate program in Canada. The program’s unique and innovative design encourages students to push the boundaries of their research and discover what other disciplines can contribute by having students complete specialist training in their home unit, while working with students from a variety of other units and disciplines in two additional interdisciplinary, experiential water courses. Rob de Loë, CWP Director, notes “We need people with deep disciplinary expertise to tackle our water problems, but we also need people who can work with specialists from other fields, and who can see the ways in which water problems cut across those disciplines. That’s what the Collaborative Water Program offers Waterloo students – a truly interdisciplinary experience.”

CWP infographics


Water Institute researchers and students develop new ideas, products and technologies to address water problems and make an impact. Here are some examples.

Monica Emelko (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Alexander Wong (Systems Design Engineering) have developed artificial intelligence software capable of identifying and quantifying different kinds of cyanobacteria, offering agencies and others the potential to save significant time and resources in water quality monitoring.

Juewen Liu (Chemistry) has developed highly sensitive fluorescent biosensors with catalytic DNA for heavy metal detection in water, offering users cost-effective, on-site, real-time detection capabilities.

Sriram Narasimhan (Civil and Environmental Engineering) has developed an approach to detect leaks in water infrastructure using hydroacoustics and artificial intelligence which supports the implementation of autonomous hydraulic monitoring systems for water distribution systems.

Carolyn Ren (Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering) has developed the first real-time, portable, intelligent lab-on-chip device allowing for the rapid detection of pathogens and contaminants in water and reducing the costs of environmental protection.

Norman Zhou (Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering) has developed environmental sensors powered by a moisture-driven electrical generator that uses the flow of water in titanium dioxide nanowire networks to generate battery-free power when exposed to moist environments, offering a potential alternative to electronic sensors that require regular maintenance.

Ren Lab