U of G, City Part of $60-Million Water Consortium

August 23, 2011 - News Release

The University of Guelph and City of Guelph are key players in a groundbreaking $60-million clean-water initiative announced today. The Southern Ontario Water Consortium includes eight universities and 60 industry partners, and will create a platform for world-leading research, testing and technology development. About a dozen U of G faculty will be involved.

“This nexus will transform how water is studied and how universities, governments and industry work together to find viable solutions,” said Kevin Hall, U of G’s vice-president (research), a civil engineer and water expert. “Industry will have access to the latest academic discoveries and innovations, and scientists can connect with municipal and provincial water authorities and technology developers to better understand their needs and priorities. It’s win-win collaboration.”

The Ontario government kick-started the consortium with an investment of nearly $9 million from the Ministry of Research and Innovation in 2009. Building on this success, today the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) announced it’s providing $20 million through its Technology Development Program. IBM Canada has also contributed $20 million, with the remaining funding coming from the participating universities and private-sector partners.

"One of the most important issues for communities around the world is access to clean drinking water and the safe treatment of wastewater," said Gary Goodyear, minister of state for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. "This investment will strengthen southern Ontario’s position as a world leader in clean-water technologies, create new jobs in our region, while offering solutions for communities across the globe that lack easy access to clean water."

Glen Murray, Ontario minister of research and innovation, added: “This tremendous collaboration of leading Ontario scientists will help us meet current and emerging challenges in drinking-water and wastewater treatment. Ontario is proud to support our water technology researchers and companies so they grow, expand and export water technology to the world using ‘made-in-Ontario’ expertise.”

The consortium will include five research nodes: wastewater treatment, drinking-water testing and development, ecotoxicological analysis, watershed management, and sensor development.

The wastewater research node will be located in Guelph and led by U of G engineering professor Ed McBean, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Water Supply Security. A cutting-edge facility to house pilot-scale treatment systems will be built at the City of Guelph’s Wastewater Treatment Plant as part of the initiative. In addition, there will be new pilot-scale equipment and analytical capabilities in laboratories on the U of G campus.

The new facility and equipment will allow for sophisticated testing of technologies being designed to treat and recycle wastewater for multiple uses. The capacity to evaluate water and wastewater technologies at this scope and breadth are not currently available, McBean said.

“This is a world-class opportunity," he said. "It will help ensure that Ontario stays in the lead in water research. It will also foster university and industry co-operation and encourage us to go overseas with these technologies, where we can really make a difference.”

Cameron Walsh, manager of wastewater services for the City of Guelph, said the city is pleased to be part of the consortium and that the planned facility is a key component of the research platform.

“It’s envisioned that innovations developed through this collaboration will not only position stakeholders well in terms of planning and prioritization of future needs, but also create economic benefits as solutions move from pilot scale to commercialization.”

There will also be facilities in the Grand River watershed, the Mimico Creek sub-watershed near Toronto, and the Greenway Wastewater Treatment Centre in London, as well as a mobile facility that will be deployed across watersheds as needed. A Toronto-based computation and data facility — funded by the IBM contribution — will participate in the analysis, storage and distribution of the collected data.

The consortium is being led by the University of Waterloo and includes, in addition to U of G, the University of Western Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University, McMaster University, the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

FedDev Ontario was created as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan to support businesses and communities in southern Ontario to allow the region to compete globally.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, lhunt@uoguelph.ca; or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, shiona@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
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