27 November 2019

Research to Ensure Access to Clean Water for Everyone, Everywhere

One year ago United Nations Academic Impact announced the inauguration of the UNAI SDG Hubs, UNAI member institutions selected as exemplars for their innovative scholarship and engagement related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) who serve as resources for best practices for the UNAI network, currently composed of over 1,400 universities and colleges in more than 130 countries.

On the anniversary of the program launch, we’re taking this opportunity to check in with some of the hub schools to highlight their scholarship and activities over the past twelve months and look ahead to future initiatives. The next school profiled in our anniversary series is the University of Manitoba (Canada), hub for SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.   

Over the past year, the University of Manitoba (UM) has undertaken numerous interdisciplinary research and community-based activities to help build sustainable, resilient communities in Manitoba and across Canada, including research with Indigenous communities on water quantity and quality management issues and the impacts of climate change.

UM scientists are teaching water quality essentials to young learners through initiatives like this year’s Freshwater Ecology Day in partnership with FortWhyte Alive. The next generation of water quality specialists visited learning stations about water sampling, water chemistry, shoreline erosion, aquatic invasive species, invertebrates and their interactions within the watershed. The session was led by graduate students from the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) at UM. CEOS leads the Canadian Watershed Information Network, a web-based, open-access data and information network created as part of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative under Canada’s Action Plan on clean water.

The institution, as part of the Mino Bimaadziwin Partnership, is working on housing and land use planning projects that should help remote Indigenous communities secure clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. Other UM researchers continue to publish results of research on contamination of drinking water in Indigenous communities and strategies for accelerating improvement.

Wa Ni Ska Tan: An Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities is another major ongoing research program. Its overall goal is to explore both the positive and negative implications of hydropower for nearby environments and Indigenous communities in the province of Manitoba and other affected regions across Canada, and to further explore how and to what degree this research alliance might enable healing as well as meaningful and desirable social and environmental change.

An offshoot of this program is Land-Based Indigenous Science Camps, Kis Kin Ha Ma Ki Win, an initiative that provides local youth with opportunities to learn about environmental sciences through Indigenous worldviews and customs. “The impact of the UM’s research, teaching and learning over the next 25 years will be largely influenced by the work underway today through the leadership of our faculty members and students,” said Dr. Digvir Jayas, Vice-President (Research and International) at UM.

“With the recent update and focus of our institutional Sustainability Strategy around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we have a roadmap for how UM can continue to support sustainability through research, teaching and community engagement for generations to come,” he added.

In addition, UM’s Visionary Conversations public speaker series began the 2019-2020 season around climate change critical issues, which are also the main focus of new research activities that are underway.

“The University of Manitoba’s recognition as the UNAI Hub for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 in 2018 for our commitment to research in clean water, sanitation and related areas is one milestone that ensured the continuation of research excellence in these critical fields and the ability to share the impact of our research on a global scale,” Dr. Jayas said.   

To learn more about the UNAI SDG Hubs, including the University of Manitoba, visit the United Nations Academic Impact SDG Hubs.