University of Guelph researchers will help to ensure safe, sustainable drinking water for Wellington County’s growing population through groundwater research. The studies will be funded by almost $11 million from the federal government, as well as local government and industry partners.
“I am thrilled to see that funding is being applied for groundwater research, given that Guelph’s water supply originates from groundwater,” said Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield. “It will be helpful to further this research, including cold geothermal heating and cooling of buildings in our downtown, and apply these studies to other communities in Canada, including our First Nations.”
The new funding will enable U of G investigators monitoring local bedrock aquifer wells to learn more about groundwater and its interaction with surface water. This information will ultimately help the City of Guelph and nearby municipalities manage resources more sustainably, said engineering professor Beth Parker.
The project will be supported by research chair and project funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) that was announced on June 7, 2019.
The federal granting agency will provide $3.125 million for renewal of an NSERC Industrial Research Chair held by Parker since 2007. Her chair renewal will be supported by matching industry funding.
A separate NSERC grant worth just over $2 million was also announced on June 7, 2019 for the groundwater monitoring project. That funding will also be matched by industry and municipal support, including $400,000 from the City of Guelph and $460,000 from Nestlé Waters Canada.
Project funding will also come from the Town of Erin and local geophysical company Paterson Grant and Watson.
“This generous funding in support of a research superstar and her team will fuel important discoveries and catalyze impactful innovations aimed at underpinning the safety of our local drinking water supply,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president of research at U of G. “Through this vital support from NSERC and industrial and municipal partners, Dr. Parker and her research team will generate knowledge and tools that will help protect and sustain our groundwater resources, improving lives in Guelph and surrounding communities.”
Fractured bedrock aquifers provide drinking water for more than one million people living in some of southern Ontario’s fastest-growing communities, including Guelph, which is projected to grow to almost 170,000 people by 2031.
Over the past decade, a U of G team led by Parker has installed high-resolution monitoring systems in bedrock aquifer wells around Guelph and southern Wellington County. She directs the U of G-based G360 Institute for Groundwater Research, which studies complex local aquifers, including how natural features protect this water resource and how wells affect groundwater.
The institute has worked with site owners and the City of Guelph on groundwater system characterization and monitoring of contaminated sites since 2003. Besides helping to improve local decision-making for sustainable water management, the project has involved many students training for careers in consulting, industry, and government agencies.
“The sustainability of groundwater as source water for communities ultimately depends on the quality and quantity of local groundwater,” Parker said. “Municipalities need more and better-resolution information to understand the status and vulnerability of our water resources so that good science can underpin water protection and management.”
Dave Belanger, the City of Guelph’s water supply program manager, said that working with G360 provides “a more comprehensive understanding of our water supply and a better monitoring program. That’s a benefit of the high-level, state-of-the-art research that comes out of the University to help us manage our groundwater resources.”
Nestlé Waters Canada has provided funding to G360 for several years, including $460,000 in 2016 to examine groundwater sustainability in southern Wellington County. The company also provided $200,000 in 2018 for drilling work in Puslinch Township.
“Both the City and Nestlé maintain their own well networks for permitting requirements, but the University project provides more detailed and integrated information,” said Andreanne Simard, natural resource manager with the company in Puslinch. “The more data we have, the better able we will be to understand the resource and address any future issues. This project shows industry and the University and municipalities working together on the same goal to protect and understand groundwater resources.”