Safeguarding the Provision of Drinking Water in a Changing Climate

Wednesday, November 23, 2022 02:30to03:30
Macdonald Engineering Building Zoom is available , 817 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C3, CA

Date: Wednesday, November 23th 2022 | Time: 2:30 pm - 3:30pm| Macdonald Engineering Building RM: 267 

*The session will also be accessible via zoom

Register: https://mcgill.ca/x/3W9

Drinking water is one of society's most critical needs and delivery of safe drinking water is a global strategic priority. In 2014, the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cited for Water research to conclude that climate change threatens water security not only through source water availability, but also quality. Climate change-exacerbated landscape disturbances such as wildfires, extreme precipitation, and pest infestation can create conditions that lead to source water quality deterioration and/or increased variability, thereby threatening treatability and potentially leading to drinking water service disruptions or even outages. In 2022, IPCC concluded that compound disturbances (e.g., heavy precipitation after wildfire) can pose even greater threats to water security. Traditional approaches to treatment process design have not historically reflected these aspects of hydroclimatic variability. Recent advances in treatability assessment are integral to ensuring that treatment processes are resilient to these increasingly variable conditions and able to provide sufficient quantities of safe potable water.

Given these challenges, international scientific community consensus indicates that sole reliance on in-plant drinking water treatment is insufficient for managing these threats and points to the need for more targeted source water protection. Source water protection through watershed management is thus increasingly advocated, however, guidance for the design and deployment of such initiatives is lacking. In Canada—and much of the world—forested landscapes are critical water-bearing areas. In these regions, forest management—and specifically harvesting—is increasingly promoted to mitigate climate-exacerbated threats to source water quality and treatability. However, it also has the potential to have undesirable impacts on water.

Seeking to safeguard the provision of adequate amounts of safe drinking water by concurrently advancing treatability assessment and contemporary source water protection strategies that are focused on treatability (thereby integrating grey and green infrastructure), the pan-Canadian and internationally-partnered forWater Network was formed to develop innovative solutions for climate change adaptation to ensure drinking water security in Canada. This presentation will summarize the past five years of forWater research and highlight key pan-Canadian insights regarding forest harvesting effects on source water quality and treatability, strategies for improved integrated watershed management, key water quality metrics for linking source water disturbance impacts to treatment challenges and strategies for assessing treatability and managing risks. These initiatives recently resulted in a global first: the inclusion of two new voluntary targets in a recent Canadian Forest Management Plan—the details of this innovation and opportunities to advance upon it will also be discussed.

Monica Emelko is a Professor of Environmental Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Water Science, Technology & Policy at the University of Waterloo, where she also serves as the Director of the Water Science, Technology & Policy Group. In addition, Monica is the Associate Director of Climate Risk, Resilience, and Adaptation at the Waterloo Climate Institute. Monica’s research is focused on drinking water supply and treatment, and risk analysis for public health protection.


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