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CWRS Northern Research Highlighted!

CWRS Northern Research Highlighted!

Did you know over 50 researchers at Dalhousie are engaged with Aboriginal and Indigenous communities in research? The Nunavut water research being conducted by CWRS is one of them! Check out the highlights and see what other researchers are up to, here. Full story on CWRS is below! 


Dalhousie Centre for Water Resources Studies working with remote communities in Nunavut

Imagine relying on trucks to bring your drinking water and take your wastewater away. If you live in Nunavut, that’s something you experience every week. “Delivery and collection usually happens every two days,” says Lisbeth Truelstrup-Hansen, a Faculty of Engineering professor at Dalhousie University. “If there is a holiday or a truck breaks down, everyone plans their water usage accordingly.”

Truelstrup-Hansen is one of several Dalhousie Centre for Water Resources Studies researchers working with the Government of Nunavut to address water availability and wastewater management in Canada’s northern-most territory. Through a five-year project, which began in 2009, she and her colleagues are characterizing the performance of current lagoon and wetland wastewater treatment systems, evaluating health and environmental risks, and testing strategies to improve the performance of passive treatment systems.

In addition to Truelstrup-Hansen, this multidimensional research team includes fellow Faculty of Engineering professors Graham Gagnon, Robbie Jamieson and Craig Lake; Heather Castledeon from the School for Resource and Environmental Studies; Daniel Rainham from the Environmental Science program; and numerous graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and undergraduate research assistants.

Given that Nunavut is essentially isolated from the rest of Canada, this undertaking has been quite an eye opener for both residents and researchers, according to Gagnon. “Often when researchers meet community members, it is the first time they’ve experienced such remoteness. Our team has received great openness and collaboration by the local communities. This makes for a unique synergy, which makes the project very exciting.”  

Researchers have also collaborated with the Nunavut Research Institute to establish a water quality laboratory in Iqaluit. This has facilitated expedite analysis of wastewater and drinking water samples, and offered invaluable training opportunities to Nunavut Arctic College’s Environmental Technology Program students.

“The remoteness of these communities has made it a challenge to conduct research related to water and wastewater systems in Nunavut,” observes Jamieson. “Our partnerships with the Government of Nunavut and individual communities we are working in are critical to the success of the research program.” He further reflects. “It is important that we ensure community members understand the value of the research. We want them to know how it will contribute to and improve public health and long term environmental protection.”

The team has taken every opportunity to engage community members throughout the process. Examples include a three-day water science workshop in Coral Harbour for young people and participating in radio station call-in shows – a vital source of information and communication among northern communities – to report their findings.

“A person’s environment greatly affects their quality of life,” says Truelstrup-Hansen. “I believe that if we can contribute to improve some important aspects, from an environmental point of view, that is a good place to be in.”

Overall, support from the community has been strong, and the team intends to continue their research and maintain partnerships with the Government of Nunavut long after the project has been completed.

“Dalhousie is well placed by having the team in Nunavut doing the research,” says Gagnon. “We are fortunate to be working in a unique field in that the research encompasses not only water engineering, but social domains, government, and community dynamics. It’s an exciting niche to explore.”