UVic creates research chair on drinking water ecology

The University of Victoria has established Canada's first university-based research chair on the environmental management of drinking water.

The chair, which is a unique partnership of academe, government and industry in B.C., Alberta and Nova Scotia, will be the focal point of a major research program on the ecological processes that contribute to safe, clean and reliable sources of drinking water.

"The ecology of source water ecosystems has been largely ignored until now because water utilities tend to concentrate on treatment and distribution," says UVic biologist and senior chair Dr. Asit Mazumder. "As our towns and cities grow, we need to have a better understanding of how watersheds and reservoirs work so that informed management decisions can be made based on credible science."

This is especially true in B.C., he says. "The rest of the world is losing its water quality and is being forced to install water treatment plants, but most water utilities in B.C. still supply water with minimal treatment. We have to find ways of managing and protecting our water sources."

The $4.6 million chair will take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the ecological processes that determine drinking water quality, and will evaluate the impact of watershed management activities, water supply operations, and changes in the food chain. Initial study sites are Victoria, Vancouver and the Cranbrook-Kimberley area, with plans to include other water utilities in the future.

Cash funding for the chair totals more than $2.5 million over five years. Half will come from the federal Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and half from nine partners: the CRD Water Department in Victoria; AXYS Environmental Group in Sidney, B.C.; Galloway Lumber Co. and Crestbrook Forest Industries in Cranbrook/Kimberley; Forest Technology Systems Inc. in Victoria; Isomass Scientific Inc. in Calgary; Focal Technologies Inc. in Nova Scotia; the B.C. Minist

Contact: Dr. Azit Mazumder
University of Victoria

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