Global Water Futures announces new projects to advance water security across Canada

Thursday, October 29, 2020

After four years of transformative research, the Global Water Futures (GWF) program—the world’s largest university-led freshwater research program — is launching the second phase of its seven-year mission with 12 new critically important water security projects. Five of those projects are led by University of Waterloo researchers.

The new projects — which include research into climate projections, water-borne diseases, and metal release in thawing permafrost environments —are led by investigators from the University of Saskatchewan and its partners McMaster University, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the University of Waterloo, as well as the University of Quebec at Montreal and McGill University.

Established in 2016 with an initial investment of $77.8 million through the federal Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), GWF is currently investigating the water problems of almost 450 partners, collaborators, and users. The program funds 190 professors from 18 Canadian universities, which have hired almost 900 students and research personnel to help solve these problems.

University of Waterloo GWF Projects

What is Water Worth? Valuing Canada's Water Resources and Aquatic Ecosystem Services
(PI: Roy Brouwer, Department of Economics)

This project aims to advance our understanding of the socio-economic value of water in Canada by developing best practice guidelines, providing new empirical evidence, and advancing new policy-relevant decision-support tools.

Managing Urban Eutrophication Risks under Climate Change: An Integrated Modeling and Decision Support Framework
(PI: Philippe Van Cappellen, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences)

The goal of this project is to assemble a suite of modeling tools to assess the vulnerability and exposure of water quality and aquatic ecosystem services to urbanization and climate change. The project will deliver a science-based roadmap for prioritizing measures to protect water quality and ecosystem health from urban pollution. It will also help unify and augment GWF’s research and knowledge mobilization efforts by advancing the representation of urban processes in water quality assessment and prediction.

Boreal Water Futures -Modelling Hydrological Processes for Wildfire and Carbon Management
(Co-PI: Maria Strack, Department of Geography and Environmental Management)

This project is focused on modeling boreal wetlands wildfire futures scenarios for improved wildfire behaviour prediction and coupled ecosystem carbon and wildfire management.

This project hopes to improve our understanding of how boreal wetland hydrological and ecological processes will co-evolve under a changing climate, providing critical information on landscape management of water, wetland and wildfire futures.

Remotely Sensed Monitoring of Northern Lake Ice Using RADARSAT Constellation Mission and Cloud Computing Processing
(Co-PIs: Andrea Scott, Department of Systems Design Engineering and Grant Gunn, Department of Geography and Environmental Management)

This goal of this project is to develop transformative methods to retrieve near real-time ice phenology and thickness to develop increased understanding of annual variability in ice formation on northern lakes.

Groundwater, Climate Change and Water Security in the Canadian Prairies
(Co-PI: Andrea Brookfield, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences)

This project will help determine if increased use of groundwater can be used to improve water security, specifically focusing on the Canadian Prairies. The PIs will focus on providing an estimate of the lag between changes in climate conditions, pumping and the associated response of groundwater level and connected surface waters, and work to develop a modeling and aquifer classification framework to assess the impacts of climate change and groundwater use on groundwater and surface water resources.

Three of GWF’s User Question-Led Projects that received funding when the GWF project began in 2016,  have also been extended:

Agricultural Water Futures in Canada: Stressors and Solutions
(PI: Merrin Macrae, Department of Geography and Environmental Management

This project seeks to evaluate water availability, use, and quality in a pan-Canadian context with the goal of improving current and future agricultural water sustainability. This project will accomplish these goals through a combination of field-based research, data mining, and hydro-climatic and socio-economic modelling efforts.

Lake Futures: Enhancing Adaptive Capacity and Resilience of Lakes and their Watershed
(PI: Nandita Basu, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering

The project focuses on the causes, impacts and mitigation of great-lake issues by creating and applying models, determining indicators, and measuring vulnerability, resilience, and recover of the lake ecosystem.

Transformative sensor Technologies and Smart Watersheds
(PI: Claude Duguay, Department of Geography and Environmental Management)

This project focuses on the development, testing and pilot implementation of a “Big Data” platform that will be pan-Canadian in scale and targeted to support the emerging spectrum of water futures issues throughout cold regions.


GWF has allocated more than $69 million to its 64 projects and core support teams. Over the past few months, GWF has renewed and funded 11 projects that have been operating since 2017 and has launched six Indigenous community water research projects. There are also seven affiliated projects based as far afield as New Zealand that receive in-kind support from GWF, and strong partnerships with the U.K., China, India, Spain, and the U.S.

GWF has global partners that include Future Earth, the World Meteorological Organisation, UNESCO, the World Climate Research Programme, and the United Nations Water Action Decade. GWF continues to lead national conversations on how a Canada Water Agency could help mitigate risks and provide water solutions across the country.

Learn more.

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