Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Government of Canada

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Network legacy: Canadian Water Network - CWN

Funded 2001-2017

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NCE contributions
$61.5 million

Number of partners

Partner contributions
$45.3 million

University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario

Safeguarding Canada's most valuable resource

Canada’s worst-ever outbreak of E. coli contamination in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000 refocused the attention of legislators and scientists on the country’s water challenges: protecting public health, a growing infrastructure deficit and the environmental impact of increasing development and demand for resources. Ensuring Canada has safe, clean and abundant water is an ongoing priority for all levels of government. That’s why Canada launched its largest-ever national effort to connect resources, people and knowledge to help decision-makers access and apply the most relevant research available to manage these risks.

The Canadian Water Network (CWN) was a catalyst for improving connections between researchers and diverse stakeholders responsible for public health, protecting watersheds and ecosystems, and ensuring sustainable water infrastructure. Each year, CWN supported approximately 120 academic researchers, more than 150 collaborators and partners, and more than 160 graduate students. These efforts improved policy and practice related to managing Canada’s water resources. The collaborative models and decision-making processes that CWN established, along with the network’s research activities, will continue with the support of multiple funders, including those supporting CWN through its Canadian Municipal Water Consortium.

Among the results

  • CWN research made it easier for water managers to adopt Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) models to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment systems. It also resulted in Health Canada improving its risk assessment model, which is helping partners implement QMRA at sites across Canada.
  • Several communities in British Columbia have implemented innovative storm water management systems that will reduce costs and flood risks, and improve urban stream ecosystems.
  • In 2015, CWN published a report on water and hydraulic fracturing. It offered a high-level analysis of the knowledge base relative to the key questions being asked to inform decisions, showcased the critical work done to assess the state of the knowledge relative to those decisions and highlighted the capacity to advance knowledge priorities to support decisions.
  • During its time as an NCE, CWN funded more than 140 research projects, which contributed to more than 40 public health decisions across Canada and internationally, informed more than 30 policies, programs and decisions in all levels of government, industry and non-profits, and affected more than 15 economic decisions.