SFU establishes Pacific Water Research Centre

Photo courtesy of CKNW

SFU’s Faculty of Environment has announced the creation of the interdisciplinary Pacific Water Research Centre (PWRC), which will bring together numerous faculties, NGOs, and local communities to further water-related research.

At two water-related seminars last month in Vancouver, SFU Blue and Canadian Water Summit, SFU announced the creation of the PWRC to academics, community leaders, and industry officials.

Led by interim director, SFU REM professor Murray Rutherford, the Centre will work with local communities for a focus on water issues close to home as well as around the world.

Water management has long been a concern for British Columbia, with particular attention to fisheries, forestry, industry use, and disposal. On a global scale, climate change and the warming of the earth’s surface and oceans poses a particular challenge to water research.

Steven Conrad, an SFU PhD candidate and prominent water researcher explained in Water Canada, “Just as we can no longer rely on the climate being stationary, we can no longer rely on water cycles being stationary.”

Research at the centre will aim to adapt to a changing environment with new methods of water management, such as water regulations to ensure adequate stores in our reservoirs. Metro Vancouver is currently employing such regulations, imposing level two water restrictions that limit lawn watering to once a week.

“Just as we can no longer rely on the climate being stationary, we can no longer rely on water cycles being stationary.”

Steven Conrad,

SFU PhD candidate

Conrad told The Vancouver Sun, “In Metro Vancouver, we have three large reservoirs that can collect enough water to meet our summer demand. But if we were to continue to have droughts, [. . .] I would expect [the reservoirs] to be inadequate to meet our needs.”

The World Economic Forum has declared the world to be in an official water crisis, identifying it as a top global risk in its Global Risks 2015 report. The lack of access to fresh water, the depletion of current stores, and the perceived mismanagement of water by industries through pollution and waste are all issues that led to this conclusion. These are the challenges the PWRC and SFU researchers will tackle, starting with local concerns.

By focusing on the community, the PWRC hopes to engage locals who have experienced issues such as water scarcity first hand. An SFU media release indicated that Rutherford believes such community members “are invaluable to the process.”

Through the PWRC, the Faculty of the Environment will be partnering with the Beedie School of Business, establishing a Sustainable Business program to bring together financial issues with water conservation and research.

The PWRC is also in discussions with other Canadian universities, governmental institutions, private companies, and local communities about collaborating. SFU hopes the PWRC will serve as a “cluster” of collaboration and problem solving.