Global Institute for Water Security

Water is crucial for survival of biological species on Planet Earth,[1] which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  Although water is in abundance on earth, 97% of it is saline water mostly found in oceans, and 3% is fresh water, which is available in icecaps and glaciers (68.7%), ground water (30.1%) and surface water (0.3%). Lakes (87%), swamps (11%) and Rivers (2%) are the sources of surface water.[2, 3]  Water in oceans could be the potential solution for existing water concerns, however, desalination and transportation are energy intensive processes having high associated economic and environmental costs and hence considered in general as a last resort after water conservation.  Therefore, today, majority of research has been focused on sustainability of fresh water resources.

Climate change and land use management are important factors effecting uncertainty in availability and sustainability of fresh water resources.  In addition, water scarcity, which involves water stress, water deficits, water shortage, and water crisis further accentuates the situation.  Water stress is defined as difficulty in obtaining sources of fresh water for use because of depleting resources, while water crisis is a situation where the available potable, unpolluted water within a region is less than that of region’s demand.[4]

The Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS), University of Saskatchewan was created to provide the organizational structure through which Prof. Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Water Security can realize his stated goals, and is funded by a federal-provincial-university partnership with base funding of $30 M over seven years.  The GIWS primarily has four research theme areas, namely Climate Change and Water Security, Land Water Management and Environmental Change, Sustainable Development of Natural Resources and Socio-hydrology (http://www.usask.ca/water), and a key focus is on the Saskatchewan River Basin (SRB), which is located in one of the most extreme and variable climates of the world.  The basin is a critically-important water resource for the Prairie Provinces of Canada, includes regionally and globally-important biomes, and represents many of the major challenges faced by water resources world-wide.  The Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX) initiative of the World Climate Research Program has now approved the SRB Project, developed by the GIWS with its national and international research partners, as an initiating Regional Hydroclimate Project (RHP), one of ten regional GEWEX projects in the world and currently the only one of its kind in North America.

In an effort to better understand how a warmer climate is likely to impact ecosystems and water resources in western Canada, the GIWS is currently leading the Changing Cold Region Network (CCRN) funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) through their Climate Change and Atmospheric Research program to integrate climate and land-surface process observations and modeling in the region of the Saskatchewan and the MacKenzie River basins in Canada. The network consists of 36 leading researchers from Canada and 15 international scientists.

One of our long-term goals of GIWS is to become a truly global institute that can address critical issues of water security at local and global level in collaborations with our strategic partners. Our collaborations with strategic partners will pave a path to share research expertise and information, exchange of research personnel, share research facilities, build history of collaborations, and develop joint research publications.

 

[4]  Hinrichsen. D. 2005. Freshwater: lifeblood of the planet. Website: http://www.peopleandplanet.net/?lid=26385&topic=44&section=38 , Accessed on April 19, 2013