U of G Researchers share their work and why World Water Day matters

Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

Written by Elizabeth Thomson

Blue water, bubbles, globe in hands
World Water Day 2023

This year’s World Water Day is focused on accelerating change towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. The College of Engineering and Physical Sciences is home to many faculty and researchers with expertise in water and sanitation. They are continually working towards creating water and sanitation solutions that support SDG6 and improve life for all.

U of G Research Leadership Chair, Professor Water Security, Dr. Ed McBean

Ed McBean’s work has taken him to dozens of countries across
the globe, including India where he is working on water security issues.

Research highlight:
In many regions in India, farmers don’t pay for electricity; the result is they frequently pump more water than needed, exacerbating the shortages of groundwater, in a country where the crisis of groundwater is enormous and growing. In many locations the groundwater sources are dropping 1 to 3 m/year. My research in India aims to enhance water infiltration to help regenerate groundwater levels and introduce practices that reduce groundwater extraction rates. One of the practices that I pursue, where feasible, is growing crops that not only require minimal water but have a high tolerance for salt. By introducing these types of crops and incorporating buried tile drains – represents a way to remove excess water and dissolved salts from the root zone – farmers can increase yields and reduce the use of high-quality groundwater.

Why is World Water Day important?
To drive home the message that the world is rapidly running out of water – we must be more careful using water and pursue the growing of specific crops appropriate to the situation.

What can we all do to better support SDG 6?
Water is a resource – don’t waste it. Garden and lawn watering – don’t do it while the sun is blazing hot – do it in the morning or evening – that will reduce water evaporation and ensure that the water is being used more effectively. We need to continue our focus on sustainability.

Professor, Director of the Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre, Bassim Abbassi

Bassim Abbassi’s focus on wastewater
is critical to sanitation efforts in Ontario and beyond.

Research Highlight:
The Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre (ORWC) is a leading training and research centre in Ontario that focuses on onsite wastewater treatment. Our activities are dedicated to improving water resource management with a focus on proper sanitation services. We provide technical assistance and knowledge sharing to support the residents of Ontario in meet their sanitation goals, while helping the regulatory authorities achieve their water-related development goals. New research into and the development of sanitation technologies, policy advocacy, community engagement, and capacity building, are all working towards SDG 6.

Why is World Water Day important?
To raise awareness about the importance of water and the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all. We need to focus our attention on the global water crisis and the urgent need to address the challenges of water scarcity, pollution, and climate change.

What can we all do to better support SDG 6?
Canadians can support the development and expansion of wastewater treatment facilities in their communities to ensure that wastewater is treated and recycled. Canadians can also reduce pollution by properly disposing of hazardous chemicals and other waste products. We all need to advocate for sustainable water management practices both domestically and internationally.

Doody Family Chair for Women in Engineering and Associate Professor in in Water Resources Engineering, Jana Levison

A vital member of the  Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute,
Jana Levison focuses on protecting groundwater.

Research Highlight:
My research specifically looks at how human activities impact groundwater quality and quantity. Over 30% of the Canadian population and over 2 billion people worldwide rely on groundwater for their water supply. Groundwater is also critical to sustaining ecosystems and for agricultural and industrial production. The City of Guelph is the largest city in Canada that uses groundwater. Many activities that we do as humans, such as applying potential contaminants like road salt or pesticides to the ground surface, impact groundwater quality. Groundwater quantity is threatened by how we use water (e.g. for watering lawns, for food and industrial production). Moreover, both groundwater quality and quantity are impacted by climate change.

Why is World Water Day important?
We often do not think about our water. This is especially true for groundwater, which is “out of sight, and out of mind.” Worldwide there are many gender-related issues (i.e., for women and girls) related to not having adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, including ill health and vulnerability to attack and abuse. World Water Day is an excellent opportunity for education on these issues.

What can we all do to better support SDG 6?
It’s important for Canadians to ensure our activities have minimal impact on groundwater resources. In many communities across Canada, we are lucky to not have to worry about our water quantity and quality. This is not true for many Indigenous communities. For example, as of today there are 32 long term drinking water advisories in 28 First Nations communities located in Canada. Ensuring that everyone living in Canada has access to safe water is imperative.

Associate Professor of Water Resource Engineering, Prasad Daggupati

Prasad Daggupati’s work is integral to our understanding
of watersheds and agriculture practices.

Research Highlight:
My research interests include understanding watershed processes, agricultural management and anthropogenic influence on sediment, nutrient and pathogen transport. Developing sustainable crop management practices that help to conserve water and improve water quality will contribute to sustainable practices in agriculture and the protection of water resources for future generations.

My research has also looked at how changes in season and location impact fresh water resource quality and water security, as well as the impact of climate change and reservoirs, in several watersheds in Canada and around the world. This research has helped develop sustainable water management solutions to ensure communities have access to clean water.

Why do you think World Water Day is important?
It gives us a chance to highlight the issues we confront in managing water resources and the necessity for long-term water resource management. It also reminds everyone to take action in their lives to improve the way they use, consume and manage water.

What can we all do to better support SDG 6?
Canadians can conserve water and use it more efficiently by repairing water leaks, taking shorter showers, rainwater harvesting and purchasing water-efficient appliances. We can help communities that face barriers to clean water and sanitation raising awareness by donating to organizations that work on this issue.

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