NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Water Quality and Treatment

People on project:

Graham GagnonAmina StoddartHeather DaurieTarra Chartrand


CBCL Ltd.LuminUltra Ltd.Halifax WaterCape Breton Regional MunicipalityMANTECH Inc.

NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Water Quality and Treatment

The NSERC Industrial Research Chair was awarded in 2007 as a result of a partnership between Dalhousie University and Halifax Water.  Since its inception the Chair program has provided numerous research opportunities for highly qualified personnel at the undergraduate, MASc and PhD level. 

In 2012 three new partners joined the Chair program:.LuminUltra Technologies Ltd., CBCL Ltd., and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM). 

The Chair provides students with unique skills and a broad vision which will facilitate their transition into the Canadian workforce, forming the next generation of young professionals in the water industry.  The success of the Chair program can be captured through NSERC’s motto of “People, Innovation. Discovery”:

The Chair program provides an integrated research approach that ensures the protection of public health from opportunistic pathogens and chemical by-products while ensuring that the longevity of drinking water infrastructure is achieved. The focus of our research has been divided in three themes:

Drinking water treatment plant optimization;

1. Characterization of natural organic matter

  • Biofiltration
  • Disinfection

2. Maintaining water quality during distribution; and

  • Lead Corrosion
  • Disinfection byproducts

3. Maximizing the environmental sustainability of drinking water plant operations.

  • Maximizing water production and minimizing energy consumption
  • Waste management of filter backwash water and clarifier solids




Using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) Yamuna Vadasarukkai (PhD student) demonstrated that inefficient mixing occurs during flocculation at a full-scale drinking water plant. This led to a redesign of the flocculator system.

Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) and filter ripening studies have demonstrated that Halifax Water was able to meet regulatory requirements without implementing a filter-to-waste process. This research enabled the facility to save $8-$10M in capital improvements.


Natural organic matter (NOM) fractionation studies by Dr. Knowles and Krysta Montreuil (MASc) were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of current coagulation conditions at a full-scale drinking water plant, and highlighted the potential for use of biofiltration, an emerging area of research in water treatment.

Research on alum flocs resulted in limited phosphorous adsorption. This has implications for biofiltration processes, as phosphorus is a limiting nutrient for biofilm growth.


In 2008, Halifax Water constructed a two-train pilot plant simulating a full-scale drinking water treatment facility. The pilot plant provides a unique platform for conducting research related to low alkalinity, low turbidity and low pH water treatment processes. The Clean Water Technology Laboratory at Dalhousie was constructed in 2010 and provides state of the art analytical and microbial capabilities to further complement Chair research.