November 29, 2010

Water Watch

You wouldn’t know it from the abundance of water bottles in almost every home and office, but water is one of our most precious resources and ensuring its sustainability is a top priority. Knowing how much water is available and the quality of it is important for science and society alike.

Banu Örmeci is the Canada Research Chair in Wastewater and Public Health Engineering. Together with grad student Natalie Linklater, she’s developing an innovative new monitoring system for water supplies that uses real-time methods to assess change in quality, and achieve rapid screening of water for toxic substances and pathogens.

“Real-time monitoring of water supplies and water distribution systems is of utmost importance for the protection of public health,” explains Örmeci. “It’s also important for preserving the health of aquatic ecosystems and fisheries that provide sustainable benefits, food, employment, income, and recreational activities for people.”

“…our project has the potential to be applied in Ontario, across Canada and abroad…”

Monitoring of water supplies has become a priority in recent years due to the threats of intentional attacks, failing infrastructure and contamination from industrial sources. In spite of the demonstrated need, there are presently limited options for the implementation of real-time water monitoring, Örmeci says.

“The capacity to develop and undertake real-time monitoring is poorly understood and not well connected, so that’s where we’re hoping to make a difference,” she says.

In the short term, the project will identify and evaluate new technologies and opportunities for further research, and pinpoint possible application opportunities in the field, Örmeci says. The long-term goal is to develop commercial real-time water monitoring systems that are both usable and efficient.

The project is still in its early stage, but already Örmeci has high praise for the interdisciplinary research skills of Linklater, a recipient of the 2010 President’s Doctoral Fellowships.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to investigate cutting-edge techniques and technologies,” says Linklater. “And the fact that our project has the potential to be applied in Ontario, across Canada and abroad is pretty exciting too.”

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