Contaminated drinking water poses a major health threat for the inhabitants of small, rural and First Nations communities in Canada. This issue was brought to the forefront of Canadian science and politics following dire drinking water crises in Walkerton, Ontario, North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and the Kashechewan First Nations Reserve in Northern Ontario.
Many cases of water contamination in these communities go largely undetected, but they are all too common an occurrence – nearly 100 First Nation communities across Canada have "boil water advisories" in any given year. Despite this nation's high standard of living and track record for technological advancement, health authorities in Canada and the USA believe that unsafe drinking water is the cause of many illnesses and loss of lives every year.
Small, rural and First Nations communities face several challenges in the provision of safe drinking water that set them apart from larger urban centres, not the least of which being the chronic lack of financial resources for infrastructure investment, as well as limited access to skilled workers, adequate technical information and suitable technologies. Complicating the issue is the fact that source waters for many small, rural and First Nations communities exhibit high seasonal and geographic variability, meaning that multiple solutions are often required to achieve proper disinfection – exacerbating the funding and technology gaps with which these communities must cope.
RES'EAU-WaterNET is Canada's first and only organization devoted exclusively to developing innovative, reliable technologies for providing clean drinking water to small, rural communities (SRCs). We unite water technology engineers, chemists, economists, science policy experts, industry partners and key stakeholders (e.g., government agencies, small water system operators and end-users) in an innovative, multidisciplinary research network. In all, RES'EAU-WaterNET's 18 research projects involve 14 professors and collaborators from seven universities across Canada. Supporting these efforts are industry partners that include technology providers and consultants, municipalities, professional organizations and related government agencies.
The network's administrative centre is located at the University of British Columbia.
RES'EAU-WaterNET's research agenda is designed to address drinking water treatment challenges in SRCs based on both community size (<2,000 residents and/or <500 municipal connections) and the variability of their source waters. While our research focuses primarily on communities with communal or central treatment systems, the technologies we develop could have wider applicability for individual systems and users with point-of-use or point-of-entry treatment needs. Specifically, RES'EAU-WaterNET's research projects focus on:
Some key, specific outcomes of RES'EAU-WaterNET research are:
Web site: www.reseauwaternet.ca