Our water is at risk. 

In Canada and globally, we are facing unprecedented water-related challenges. Canada has some of the world's highest rates of warming, which impacts infrastructure, institutions, ecosystems and human health. Given that half the world's population and all of Canada are dependent upon water from cold regions, the grand challenge for water science in Canada and globally is: "How can we best forecast, prepare for and manage water futures in the face of dramatically increasing risks?"

Global Water Futures: Solutions to water threats in an era of global change

GWF’s overarching goal is to deliver risk management solutions—informed by leading-edge water science and supported by innovative decision-making tools—to manage water futures in Canada and other cold regions where global warming is changing landscapes, ecosystems, and the water environment. End-user needs will be our beacon and will drive strategy and shape our science.

GWF aims to deliver the following outcomes and impacts:

1) Improved disasater warning

Currently, we lack the scientific knowledge, monitoring and modeling technologies, and national forecasting capacity to predict the risk and severity of potentially catastrophic events in Canada. These knowledge gaps and technology barriers have resulted in significant loss of life and property in recent years.  GWF will create Canada’s first national water disaster warning system by creating robust forecasting tools capable of warning stakeholders of impending floods, seasonal water flows, droughts and water quality. Apps, underpinned by our models created in other pillars, will be developed to deliver these systems in a user-friendly manner. These solutions will save lives and infrastructure and provide operational efficiencies to stakeholders and industries such as water managers and hydropower companies.

2) Predicting water futures

The world lacks water data on a scale to make informed decisions, and we cannot forecast future climate impacts without better models to assess changes in our human/natural land and water systems. These limitations create risks for water supplies, water quality and sustainability. Though a comprehensive research program that integrates multiple disciplines, GWF will establish a more holistic understanding of our changing climate, land, water and ecosystems. This expansive knowledge will create more robust mathematical models that will increase accuracy of our future predictions of water quantity and quality, as well as landscape and ecosystem change for all major Canadian river basins, allowing for scenario modeling of land and water futures. Apps and software that incorporate these models will be developed with the end user in mind for integration into daily decision-making.

 3) Adapting and managing risk 

Nationally and globally, we lack the governance mechanisms, management strategies, and policy tools needed to reduce the risk of water threats, design adaptive strategies to cope with uncertainty, and take advantage of economic opportunities that arise as change unfolds. GWF will provide decision-makers in government and across industries and agriculture the necessary risk-management models tools to make evidence-based decisions that result in optimal socioeconomic outcomes. These scenario-based tools will be informed by our transdisciplinary research program and will be customized by sector. For example, GWF will provide government with evidence and guidance on adaptive governance; Indigenous communities with decision-making tools to adapt to changing water quality; urban communities with evidence to adapt and respond to flood risk; agriculture with tailored weather inputs for precision farming and tools for beneficial management practices; industry with guidance on risks and sustainability, and tools to better assess and manage water and environmental risks and liabilities.

In sum, GWF will position Canada as a

a) global leader in water science for the world’s cold regions, where snow, ice, and frozen soils control the storage and release of water,

b) global partner of choice for transdisciplinary water research, and

c) a provider for Canada and the world of strategic tools to manage water futures.


GWF will achieve this through three interrelated pillars of activity.

Major Funding Partners

Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) is a federal program which aims to place Canada at the forefront of global research that is of economic benefit to Canada.

In September 2016, the University of Saskatchewan was awarded $77.84 million over seven years from CFREF to establish the CFREF project “Global Water Futures: Solutions to Water Threats in an Era of Global Change”.  GWF has grown to a total funding package of $143.67 million through linked contributions from the University of Saskatchewan ($17.5 million), University of Waterloo ($15 million), McMaster University ($12.14 million), and Wilfrid Laurier University ($10.58 million) and various industrial partners.

Canada First Research Excellence Fund      
University of Waterloo      McMaster University    Laurier  


  1. University of Saskatchewan
  2. University of Waterloo
  3. McMaster University
  4. Wilfrid Laurier University
  5. University of Guelph
  6. University of British Columbia
  7. University of Northern British Columbia
  8. University of Calgary
  9. University of Laval
  10. McGill University
  11. University of Quebec at Montreal
  12. University of Alberta
  13. University de Montreal
  14. University of Manitoba
  15. University of Victoria
  16. Brock University
  17. Canadian Rivers Institute (University of New Brunswick and University of Prince Edward Island)
  18. Yukon College
  1. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) – Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate & Water Science and Technology Directorate
  2. ECCC – Meteorological Services of Canada
  3. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  4. Health Canada
  5. Public Health Agency Canada
  6. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
  7. Parks Canada
  8. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) - Forest Services
  9. NRCan - Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation
  10. NRCan - Geological Survey of Canada
  11. Canadian Space Agency
  12. Alberta Innovates
  13. Alberta Environment and Parks
  14. BC Hydro
  15. BC Ministry of Energy and Mines
  16. BC Ministry of Environment
  17. Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT) - Department of Education, Culture and Employment
  18. GNWT - Department of Health and Social Services
  19. GNWT - Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment
  20. GNWT - Department of Lands
  21. GNWT - Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
  22. GNWT - Department of Public Works and Services
  23. GNWT - Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
  24. GNWT - Premier
  25. GNWT - NWT Power Corp
  26. Great Lake Fisheries Commission
  27. Hydro-Quebec
  28. Innovation Saskatchewan
  29. Mackenzie River Basin Board
  30. Manitoba Hydro
  31. Manitoba Ministry of Conservation and Water Stewardship
  32. Ontario Ministry for Agriculture - OMAFRA
  33. Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change
  34. Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation
  35. Ontario Power Generation
  36. Prairie Provinces Water Board
  37. South Basin Mayors & Reeves
  38. Yukon Government - Executive Council Office
  39. Yukon Premier
  1. Aquanty
  2. Aquatics Informatics
  3. Areva Resources Canada
  4. Buffalo Treatment Plant
  5. Campbell Scientific
  6. City of Calgary
  7. ComDev
  8. Crescent Point
  9. Dominion Diamond Ekati Corp
  10. Drinking Water Treatment Plants, Prince Albert
  11. EnviroSim Associates Ltd
  12. EPCOR
  13. ESRI Canada - GIWS Software/ Data/ Consulting
  14. EXACTearth
  15. Geo-Slope International Ltd.
  16. Golder Associates
  17. IBM
  18. INCAS3, Netherlands
  19. Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction
  20. Insurance Bureau of Canada
  21. International Copper Association
  22. International Lead Association (Teck and Glencore Canada)
  23. International Minerals Innovation Institute
  24. International Zinc Association
  25. Matrix Solutions Inc.
  26. North Rim
  27. PwC
  28. RBR Ltd.
  30. Saskatchewan Research Council
  31. Solinst
  32. Thermo Scientific
  33. Timber Works Inc
  34. Water Services, Transportation and Environmental Services, Region of Waterloo
  1. AirMOSS - University of Southern California
  2. Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (Germany)
  3. Australian National University
  4. British Geological Survey
  5. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford UK
  6. Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences
  7. CliC, GEWEX
  8. CNR-IASC Bologna, Italy
  9. Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  10. ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  11. Future Earth - Montreal
  13. Gorgan University of Agricultural Sci.& Natural Resources, Iran
  14. University of Idaho, USA
  15. Imperial College London, UK
  16. Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, India
  17. Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain
  18. International Arctic Research Center (US), Univesity of Alaska
  19. LTHE Grenoble, France
  21. National University of Columbia
  22. National Centre for Atmospheric Research, USA
  23. Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Department of Commerce
  24. Norwegian Institute for Water Research - NIVA
  25. Oregon State University, USA
  26. SLU, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  27. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  28. Snow Research Center, Grenoble, Meteo-France
  29. Sustainable Water Futures, International Secretariat
  30. Swiss Snow and Avalance Institute (WSL), Davos, Switzerland
  31. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) - Australia
  32. UD Department of Agriculture
  33. UNESCO  - International Hydrological Programme
  34. Universidad Austral de Chile
  35. University of Aberdeen, Scotland
  36. University of California at Los Angles, USA
  37. University of Chile
  38. University of Edinburgh, UK
  39. University of Innsbruck, Austria
  40. University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienne (BOKU), Austria
  41. University of Northumbria, UK
  42. University of Queensland, Australia
  43. University of Utrecht, Netherlands
  44. University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  45. University of Wellington, Victoria, New Zealand
  1. Bow River Basin Council
  2. Canadian Red Cross
  3. Deerwood Soil and Water Management Association
  4. Ducks unlimited
  5. Experimental Lake Area
  6. GIFS UofS/ CFREF Designing Crops
  7. GLEON
  8. GREON
  9. Meewasin Valley Authority
  10. Okanagan Basin Water Board
  12. Partners for Sask River Basin
  13. Prince Albert Model Forest
  14. Red Deer River Watershed Alliance
  15. Southern Ontario Water Consortium
  1. Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation
  2. Champagne and Aishihik First Nations
  3. Cumberland House Cree Nation
  4. Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations - FSIN
  5. Mistawasis First Nation
  6. SRDP - Fort Resolution Metis Council
  7. Tlicho Government

Contact Us

General Inquiries

Global Water Futures
National Hydrology Research Centre
11 Innovation Boulevard
Saskatoon, SK.

Media Inquiries

Mark Ferguson, Communications Specialist