Why focus on small systems?
Most Canadians who live in mid-size and large urban centres take drinking water for granted –clean drinking water is only as far away as your nearest tap.
However, a shocking number of small communities struggle to provide drinkable water on a regular basis, putting six million Canadians at risk for water-borne disease. Small public water systems serve over 30 million people in North America and about 2.5 billion people globally.
Economic problems faced by small and rural communities are rooted in the complexities of knowledge sharing and utilization — no single individual or organization possesses all relevant quantitative and qualitative data required to holistically assess a complex issue. Similarly, no single individual or organization can solve the problem, and so information flow and collaboration are vitally necessary to success. In this context, the crucial problems are: What is the best method by which the knowledge that is initially dispersed among few people/stakeholders can be made as widely available as possible? And, how can the planning of solutions be coordinated?
RES’EAU-WaterNET is the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) strategic response to society’s changing expectations about what research and development (R&D) partnerships should deliver. Universities can only survive if they are relevant and meet community aspirations. Inventions can only become innovations when communities buy into them. RES'EAU is a five-year, $8 million program, 40% funded from partnership with 20 public and private organizations matched by 60% funding from the NSERC. In addition, the program leverages over $5 million in human and technological capital from our partner organizations to support the implementation of our internationally recognized and award winning Community Circle approach.
Click to learn more about our Community Circle Model.
The RES’EAU Community Circle is an award-winning and globally unique precision problem-solving model for drinking water in small, rural and indigenous communities that proposes the customization of solutions, with decisions, practices, technologies and services being tailored to the individual community.
This model takes our research program out of the lab and into the real world, incorporating communities, operators, and all stakeholders’ expertise and insight at the earliest stages of the problem-solving process. We work closely with communities to understand the limitations and constraints they face. Then, we identify research priorities and design and execute research to produce knowledge and integrated game-changing solutions. These approaches are then validated by industry so that they can be readily diffused and adopted.
The RES’EAU team is at the early stage of defining a vibrant market space for innovative solutions specific to small water systems. These solutions will be piloted in collaboration with both public and private sector partners and according to guidelines set out by regulatory agencies, either at public sector facilities and/or subsequently in actual communities. Successful solutions will then be scaled up through partnerships with national and international strategic programs, or by industry partners.
We work with partnering communities to identify the key challenges they face, and to design and execute research to produce knowledge and technologies suited to their needs. We then pilot test promising new solutions in the field, and integrate community feedback into our refinement process. Our approaches are then validated by industry so that they can be readily diffused to and adopted by the communities that stand to benefit from them.
The result is a targeted research program that puts small, rural and First Nations communities' needs first, while accelerating the development of affordable and sustainable water treatment solutions. The RES’EAU R&D team includes 18 world-class scientists from eight universities across Canada, supported by more than 100 students and post-doctoral fellows.
Our program is divided into three themes of investigation (click on the icons to learn more):