The University of Alberta has a constellation of resources, facilities and cross-sector partnerships that create a unique institutional capacity to address water challenges through integrated education and research initiatives—locally, nationally and globally.
The Water Initiative has established partnerships with a number of Canadian organizations and companies to enhance their ability to carry out the vital work of this program.
The university is also focused on developing international consortia that include partners from five primary countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India and the United States. The existing consortia are currently centred on the main themes of energy, environment and infectious diseases. Water is emerging as a fourth organizational theme in its own right as it underpins these three areas.
Alberta WaterSMART is a niche strategic and engineering consulting company with deep domain expertise and understanding of water in Alberta supported by robust technical skills. Alberta WaterSMART provides a unique combination of in-house integrated water management expertise, with access to a diverse external network of global and local leaders in the field. This powerful formula allows Alberta WaterSMART to identify, develop and execute water related strategies and projects for its clients and partners spanning from strategic assessment and facilitation, to policy response and awareness, to technical solution development and application. Alberta WaterSMART is an effective catalyst and champion for positive change.
Alberta Provincial Laboratory for Public Health
The Provincial Lab, physically located in UAlberta’s medical complex, is part of Alberta Health Services. It is an essential component of provincial oversight for quality drinking water, waterborne disease surveillance and pathogen detection, and watershed and source protection. The Provincial Lab has a number of cross-appointed researchers and clinical staff with UAlberta, primarily in the School of Public Health and the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.
Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence
EWMCE is a not-for-profit corporation established to meet solid waste and waste water challenges worldwide, operating at the core of a private-public network of environmental leaders. EWMCE’s partner institutions include the university, the City of Edmonton and EPCOR, which owns and operates electricity transmission and water and waste water facilities in Alberta, British Columbia, Arizona and New Mexico. EWMCE’s Gold Bar Wastewater Research and Training facility offers opportunities for research and training in advanced biological waste water treatment. This facility prides itself as a “natural treatment facility,” harnessing waste water's natural properties to remove constituents. Combining natural processes with groundbreaking technologies, Gold Bar is considered one of North America’s most advanced and progressive waste water treatment facilities.
Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute
ABMI is a not-for-profit corporation and an affiliated UAlberta institute, funded in partnership with the Government of Alberta and private partners, primarily from the forestry sector. Its mandate is to provide scientifically sound, open-access data on biodiversity within the province. Over several years, it has developed a complex protocol for collecting and processing biodiversity data. Visiting 330 sites within the province each year, ABMI surveys the entire province once every five years. ABMI collects information on about 2,000 species via site visits, aerial photography and satellite imagery. Its programs monitor changes in highly relevant species, habitats and human land use.
Centre for Oil Sands Innovation
COSI’s mandate is to advance the science and technologies that will support oilsands operations with a reduced environmental footprint by minimizing water use, consuming less energy and lowering greenhouse gas and other emissions, yielding high-quality products at lower cost. COSI is funded as a partnership among Imperial Oil, UAlberta and the Government of Alberta.
Oil Sands Tailings Research Facility
This research centre, jointly funded by the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada, supports research on developing new ways to deal with delivery/production, treatment and deposition of tailings. OSTRF is an intermediate scale, continuous-flow-through facility designed to process tailing slurries at 600 kg solids per hour and 2,000 kg solids per hour. The 2,000 kg/hr capability is to ensure upward scalability of the process data to full-scale operations.
Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology
The Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology was created in 2010 through the combined gifts of $25 million from the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation and $52.5 million from the Government of Alberta. The institute provides scientific infrastructure for research on infectious diseases, adding to extensive water chemistry facilities across the institution.
National Institute for Nanotechnology
Located on the UAlberta campus, NINT is an integrated, multidisciplinary institution involving researchers in physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, informatics, pharmacy and medicine. It is operated as a partnership between the National Research Council and the University of Alberta, and is jointly funded by the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta and the university. Its research programs align with the university’s water initiative through programs assessing the impact of new nano-based materials on water and on nanotechnologies for fossil fuel processing.
Acquired by the university through a philanthropic gift, the Kinsella Ranch is a 5,554-acre property containing a number of tracts of undisturbed rough fescue prairie, an endangered ecosystem native grass, plus water with a rolling topography. Grazing is managed on the ranch, and can be modified according to the needs of particular research activities. It provides a rich natural environment for a diversity of studies. In the area of water, there are ongoing investigations into whether and how cattle producers could consider allowing their cows to graze snow in winter, as a way to meet their water requirements.
Rangeland Research Institute—Mattheis Ranch
Acquired by the university through a philanthropic gift, the Mattheis Ranch is a 12,300-acre property in southern Alberta along the Red Deer River and the Matziwin Creek, and several created wetlands that are managed for wildlife habitat. This ranch provides the university with outstanding research and teaching opportunities in rangeland and pasture management. Research will be conducted on a wide variety of rangeland ecology and management issues including water optimization, grasslands ecology, carbon sequestration and storage, the impact of climate change on mixed-grass prairie, and land reclamation. It complements the university’s agricultural research infrastructure, which includes the 5,554-acre Kinsella ranch in central Alberta, the 800-acre St. Albert Research Station used for crops research, the Breton Plots used for soil research and the numerous facilities on South Campus.
St. Albert Research Station
Acquired by the university through a philanthropic gift, St. Albert Research Station hosts a variety of environmental and crop research projects on 777 acres and provides the university with the added ability to grow and expand in the future. This property, along with $2 million in new analytical facilities on campus, supports research by the newly established Bocock Chair in water and sustainable agriculture.
South Campus Farms, George Lake Research Site, and Meanook Research Station
South Campus lands include 148 hectares for experimental farms dedicated to agricultural research in areas such as food safety and crop use for food and industrial products. The George Lake Research Site and Meanook Biological Research Station are off-site field research stations that support ecology studies on river, lake and wetland environments.
The Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative
HAI is an independent, international research partnership designed to find solutions to the pressing environmental issues facing energy projects such as Alberta's oilsands in Canada and coal production in Germany. UAlberta and Helmholtz researchers have defined five well-developed theme areas of investigation, which include cleaner tailings pond management, improved land reclamation, and upgraded bitumen and lignite coal processes that will reduce energy and water consumption. The partnership is funded with $25 million from the Government of Alberta, with matching support of €6.25 million from the Helmholtz Association.
The India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability is a five-year, $30-million partnership of three of Canada's top universities and 11 leading institutions in India. Made possible by the Canadian government's Networks of Centres of Excellence program, IC-IMPACTS was created to develop technologies that will ensure health, safety and sustainability for remote and rural communities in both countries. The U of A is leading the partnership's integrated water management research program to develop and deliver new technologies for monitoring water quality and treating potable and waste water.
Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China
China's science and technology ministry is contributing $2.5 million to the creation of a joint research laboratory with the university to support collaborative projects on water and human health. This effort will leverage infectious disease partnerships in place with China through the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology.
National Ganga River Basin Project
The Ganga River and its tributaries compose the Ganga River Basin, more than 1 million square kilometres of catchment facing the most serious population pressure of any river in the world. The university has entered into a partnership with a U.K. firm to serve as the strategic point of contact for Canada’s work with the World Bank Project for the Ganga River Basin.
Yangtze River Projects—Ecological Conservancy Outreach Fund
The Yangtze River has become severely polluted through years of environmental and agricultural mismanagement. Since 2000, UAlberta’s Larry Wang has organized more than a dozen pilot projects along the Yangtze River, mainly in the western province of Yunnan, that have encouraged area farmers to switch from crops such as corn, which erode the soil, to more environmentally sustainable and economically profitable crops such as mulberry, walnut, bamboo and pear. The new crops earned the farmers up to 12 times their previous incomes, inducing all of their neighbours to change, and also noticeably improved the water quality along the river. > Watch Seeds of Change—The ECO Story [video]
Various Developing Countries Projects
Examples include the “People, Land, and Water” project with the University of Zimbabwe, investigating how access to common property resources are used and managed in a sustainable manner; social and cultural issues in water management in Kenya; and a joint project with Pakistan on the creation of reusable, biodegradable filters from poultry feathers, to remove arsenic from contaminated drinking water.