Dr. John Pomeroy (PhD), USask Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change, at the Wolf Creek Research Basin in the Yukon in August. (Photo: Mark Ferguson)

Global Water Futures Observatories a critical step towards water security for Canadians

When the University of Saskatchewan (USask) set out to lead the pan-Canadian Global Water Futures (GWF) Program in 2016, it laid the groundwork for what has become an integrated system of research stations across the country that are critical to understanding, predicting and tracking the health of our water.

By Mark Ferguson

Now six years on, GWF is the largest and most published university-led freshwater research program in the world and includes 213 faculty investigators, 531 end-users, 1,826 new researchers, and a network of 23 Canadian universities working on 65 projects and core teams.

The program has also established or operates 76 water observation sites, 27 deployable measurement systems, and 31 state-of-the-art university-based environmental and aquatic analysis facilities.

These facilities monitor things like algae activity in freshwater lakes that are the drinking water source for millions of people; snowpacks and glaciers in the high Canadian Rockies that feed the rivers and streams of western North America and can contribute to catastrophic flooding; the health of the Great Lakes and contaminants in groundwater used as drinking water sources for Indigenous communities.

Thanks to new funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Major Science Initiatives (MSI), these critical research stations and their data management system will continue to operate under the GWF umbrella as the Global Water Futures Observatories (GWFO).

“This funding means the observational core of Global Water Futures will carry on to at least 2029. Thee tremendous heritage of observations that go back to the early 1960s at Canadian hydrological research basins will continue to be honoured and maintained as sources of science for our professors, places to train our graduate students, and places to test our models and make new discoveries about the changing hydrology in Canada, from the Arctic down to the Great Lakes,” said Dr. John Pomeroy (PhD), USask distinguished professor and director of GWF, and the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change.

“The observations will help us to continue to develop solutions to manage and conserve Canada’s water supplies and major rivers.” 

GWFO provides data to provide early warning and test beds for predictions of flood, drought, and water quality issues, and operates across seven provinces and territories, including the Great Lakes Basin.

USask leads the nine-university collaboration that operates the network to monitor and help support the development of solutions for the impending water crisis that Canadians face due to climate change, inadequate water management, the proliferation of toxic contaminants, and environmental degradation.

The announcement of $15.25 million in funding for the $40.4 million GWFO came in late August along with several other USask projects, including $2.6 million for SuperDARN Canada, $53.9 million for the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), and $97 million for the Canadian Light Source (CLS). 

A list of the 76 stations across Canada:

Dr. John Pomeroy (PhD), USask Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change, at the Wolf Creek Research Basin in the Yukon in August. (Photo: Mark Ferguson)

GWFO Field Observation Sites grouped by major water drainage basin

Yukon River Basin

  1. Wolf Creek Research Basin
  2. Tombstone Water Observatory

Mackenzie River Basin

  1. Havikpak Creek Research Basin
  2. Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway
  3. Smith Creek
  4. Kakisa and Tathlina Lakes
  5. Bogg Creek and surround areas
  6. Trail Valley Creek Research Basin
  7. Baker Creek Research Basin
  8. Peace-Athabasca Delta / Wood Buffalo National Park
  9. Dehcho Lake Sampling Network
  10. Fire Ecology Network
  11. Athabasca Glacier Research Basin
  12. Britnell-Bologna Icefield
  13. Fort McMurray

Saskatchewan-Nelson River Basin

  1. Helen Creek Research Basin
  2. Marmot Creek Research Basin
  3. Sibbald Research Wetland
  4. Peyto Glacier Research Basin
  5. Burstall Creek Research Basin
  6. Kenaston / Brightwater Creek Mesonet Site
  7. Saskatchewan River Delta
  8. Fortress Mountain Research Basin
  9. St. Denis National Wildlife Area
  10. Fen - Boreal Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Sites (BERMS), White Gull Creek Basin
  11. Old Jack Pine (OJP) - Boreal Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Sites (BERMS), White Gull Creek Basin
  12. Old Black Spruce (OBS) - Boreal Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Sites (BERMS), White Gull Creek Basin
  13. Clavet Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence
  14. Borden Bridge
  15. Buffalo Pound Lake

Columbia River Basin

  1. Columbia Icefield

Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River Basin

  1. Georgian Bay Biosphere
  2. Turkey Point Sites
  3. Gatineau River and Saint-Maurice River watersheds, QC
  4. Turkey Lakes Watershed
  5. Eastern Basin Lake Erie
  6. Fanshawe Reservoir
  7. Lake Ontario - Hamilton Harbor
  8. Lake Ontario - Western Basin
  9. Lake Ontario - Pointe Peter array
  10. Lake Ontario - Rideau Canal - section-1
  11. Lake Ontario - Rideau Canal - section-2
  12. Lake Ontario - Rideau Canal - section-3
  13. Lake Ontario - Eastern Basin
  14. Lake Ontario - Salmon River
  15. Lake Superior - Western Arm
  16. Lake Superior - Nipigon Bay
  17. Lake Superior - Black Bay
  18. Lake Superior - Thunder Bay
  19. Lake Huron - Cisco north channel project
  20. Lake Huron - Algonquin Park
  21. Lake Huron - Lake Whitefish / glider calibration for telemetry
  22. Lake Erie - Detroit River acoustic array
  23. Lake Erie - Pigeon Bay
  24. Urban Ecohydrology 1: Ajax Sewersheds (East & West)
  25. Urban Ecohydrology 2: Richmond Hill stormwater pond
  26. Urban Ecohydrology 3: Lake Wilcox (Richmond Hill)
  27. Urban Ecohydrology 4: Bioretention cell (Mississauga)
  28. Urban Ecohydrology 5: Stormwater ponds (Kitchener)
  29. CFB Borden Site
  30. Hopewell Creek, southern ON
  31. Wilket Creek, Toronto
  32. Morningside Creek, Toronto
  33. Ganatsekaigon Creek, Pickering
  34. Blair Creek, Kitchener
  35. Inverhaugh
  36. West Montrose
  37. Kiwanis Park
  38. EIT
  39. Fairway
  40. Manheim
  41. Glen Morris
  42. Strawberry Creek
  43. Alder Creek Smart Watershed
  44. Elora Research Station (University of Guelph)
  45. rare Charitable Research Reserve

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