Human Dimensions
- Impact and Management


Water Well Told: Storytelling and its part in source water protection

First Author: Ashleigh Duffy, School of Environment and Sustainability

Additional Author(s): Global Water Futures University of Saskatchewan, Prairie Water

Abstract: Drinking water threats have been identified by local champions in the North Saskatchewan   River Basin (NSRB) through Source Water Protection (SWP) plans. Most of these plans have been completed by Indigenous communities, with support from the   NSRB Council. In my graduate research, I developed a framework to analyse the storytelling within and around these SWP plans, which revealed that storytelling can lead to better solutions. The findings of this research embody the theme of this meeting: “Knowledge to Action”. At a local level,   knowledge to manage source water is already being shared through the action   of storytelling. The most common type of storytelling was that which shares   place-based knowledge. However, this knowledge is being shared largely in informal   settings instead of the workshops or meetings where professionals attend to   listen. Thus, local knowledge is being acted upon in a limited capacity.   Importantly, local indigenous historical knowledge only appeared to be shared   in informal settings. This finding is not only relevant under the theme of   “Knowledge to Action”, but also critical in the decolonization of drinking   water solutions for Indigenous communities, and for the involvement of   Indigenous Peoples in Canadian water governance.


Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in Prairie lakes: Response Management Planning and Risk Communications

First Author: Mehraneh Ghavami, School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan


Additional Author(s): Lori Bradford, Lalita Bharadwaj, University of Saskatchewan


Abstract: Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are increasing across Canada’s lakes and waterways. Increased blooms increase risks to human and wildlife health and ecological sustainability. In this mixed-methods study, we assess risks from HABs through communication practices, including self-reports of receipt of communications, communication type, and cultural harmonization of communications for Indigenous peoples. Surveys (N=127) revealed lake users' exposure to HABs communications on-site, while interviews (N=12) with stakeholders and managers in HABs contexts in the Prairies revealed strategies that were in place to reduce risks. While the communication of the risk of blooms to the public may occur through alert, social media, email, newsletter, signage, radio, in-person advising, phone, web posting, and/or internet, our findings suggest that 73% of people, locally, do not receive adequate communications about the algal bloom in the provinces’ lakes and are not aware of the blooms and related health risks. As a result, few report changing their plans or taking risk-reduction strategies when using lakes and waterways in the prairies. This study illustrates a baseline level of public knowledge about algal blooms in the prairie waters and recommends better practices for environmental and governmental agencies to monitor, manage, and communicate the risk of HABs to the public.


Lipid Adjusted Polychlorinated Biphenyl Levels in Arctic and Subarctic regions in Canada

First Author: Victoria Gevaert

Additional Author(s): Brian Laird, University of Waterloo , Mallory Drysdale, University of Waterloo, Kelly Skinner, University of Waterloo, Mylene Ratelle, University of Waterloo

Abstract: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of persistent organic pollutants that can be found in northern parts of Canada due to both point-sources as well as long-range transport. Several national biomonitoring projects are collecting data related to PCB and other contaminant exposure levels. However, no recent data is available describing PCB levels among First Nations communities in the Northwest Territories (NWT)and Yukon. Thus, biomonitoring projects were established between 2016-2019 to assess community exposures to several analytes including POPs (e.g., PCBs), metals and pesticides. Researchers developed a community research agreement with community leaders. Blood samples (n=325) from participants in Dehcho and Sahtú, NWT and Old Crow, Yukon were collected and analyzed for fatty acids (DHA+EPA)and PCB levels. Twenty-four PCB congeners and 1 mixture were analyzed and lipid-normalized. Percentiles, geometric means, and limits of detections for all congeners, Arochlor 1260 and certain sums of PCB congeners were generated. Further analyses were conducted for PCBs that had a limit of detection greater than 50%. Independent samples T tests were used to identify significant differences between certain variables (e.g., sex, smoking status, drinking status). ANOVA was used to determine significant differences across the 3 regions. Correlations (Spearman’s ρ) explored significant associations between age and omega-3 fatty acid levels. PCB levels appeared to vary across participating regions, with the highest levels appearing among participants from the Sahtú and Dehcho and lower levels in Old Crow, Yukon. Further, PCB levels were generally lower or similar to those in the general Canadian population with the exception of older participants in the Dehcho and Sahtú regions of the NWT. For example, among Dehcho participants 60-79 years, lipid-adjusted biomarkers for select PCB congeners (e.g., PCB 187, 194, 201) appeared significantly higher (up to 1.67-fold) than seen in the CHMS. Similar patterns were observed in the Sahtú region with more PCB congener levels (e.g., PCB 146, 153, 163). PCB levels fell below the previously establishedhealth-based guidelines (e.g., actionable levels measured in ug/L)) for PCBs in Canada. PCBs often appeared to differ between men and women , with men showing higher levels compared to women. As age increased, so did PCB concentrations and similar patterns were found with omega-3 fatty acid levels. These results fill a data gap for human biomonitoring in northern Canada. Future research will identify sources of PCB exposure including traditional food intake and assess variability in dietary patterns.


Contaminant Exposure and Levels of Lead in Northern Regions of Canada

First Author: Calin Lazarescu, School of Public Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Additional Author(s): Mallory Drysdale, Mylene Ratelle, Kelly Skinner, Brian Laird: School of Public Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Abstract: Lead (Pb) is a toxic element that remains widespread in environmental media (including soil, air, and water) due to anthropogenic releases into the environment. Populations living in Northern communities (including arctic and subarctic areas) face unique environmental challenges, including the so called ‘Arctic Dilemma’. The Arctic Dilemma represents the exposure to environmental contaminants, in Indigenous populations of Northern regions when relying on traditional foods from hunting and fishing, thus, heavy metals, including Pb, are concerns to the health and traditional lifestyles of Northern Indigenous populations.


Research in three areas of Northern Canada: six communities in Dehcho Northwest Territories, Old Crow Yukon, and three communities in Sahtú Northwest Territories, explored concentrations of several contaminants, including Pb. Average blood and urine Pb biomarker levels were found to be higher than those in the general Canadian population (i.e., relative to results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey), in both Old Crow, and the Sahtú. It is not yet clear why levels were elevated and warranting further investigation.


Routes of exposure are being assessed through various methods, including statistical analysis of biomarker and nutrient levels, exposure and food frequency questionnaires, and sampling of water and harvested food. Possible routes of exposure resulting in elevated Pb levels include food and drinking water consumption, hunting practices and other exposure sources, such as smoking.


Statistical analysis of biomarkers in the Sahtu indicated nutrient levels of Zinc, and Vitamin D have significant correlations with Pb levels, and their direction of correlation are contrary to the established physiochemical interactions with Pb. Associations between the consumption of some large animal organs and increasing Pb levels were found in both the Sahtu and Old Crow. Other associations between Pb and determinants such as consumption of daily multi-vitamin (negative association with Pb concentrations) and drinking untreated river (positive association with Pb concentrations) water were also found in Old Crow.


The research generated will directly address community concerns, who have expressed concern in identifying why Pb levels are high and methods in reducing Pb concentrations in the future. The application of a more detailed and specific exposure survey in the Sahtú, and further biomarker statistical analysis are the next steps.


Passive sampling for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in a university residence wastewater system

First Author: Blake Haskell, BSc., University of Waterloo

Additional Author(s): Hadi Dhiyebi, MSc., Mark Servos, PhD., Noah Smith; University of Waterloo

Abstract: Wastewater-based epidemiology has emerged at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response as an additional tool for decision makers to employ effective management strategies. The detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater systems is a critical component of pandemic preparedness as routine surveillance has the potential to act as an ‘early warning system’ for outbreaks and is entirely independent of clinical testing limitations. Furthermore, the financial burdens of clinical testing and health care professional shortages felt by governments internationally calls for a rapid and affordable means to evaluate the prevalence of the virus in our communities. This study employs a simple passive sampling approach to detect and quantify SARS-CoV-2 RNA in a university residence wastewater system using medical gauze as a sampling medium. Surveillance was performed at three times per week from August 2021 to April 2022 and monitored over 4,000 students in 10 different on-campus residence buildings. Two N-gene targets were routinely monitored, as well as the fecal indicator Pepper Mild Mottle Virus (PMMoV) for data normalization. While the results demonstrated that the high sensitivity of the method was successful in detecting the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater, there were limitations to quantification and long-term trend analysis when SARS-CoV-2 levels approached or fell below the limit of quantification. High SARS-CoV-2 RNA loads in wastewater, as best demonstrated in January 2022 during the peak of the Omicron Variant, were most favourable for tracking real differences in the viral signal through time. By engaging multiple stakeholders involved in the on-campus pandemic response, decision-makers were equipped with an additional layer of evidence to support the enforcement or easing of restrictions. The surveillance data was also used to relay the relative risk to students living in affected communities.


Adaptive Management of Coupled Human-Water Systems

First Author: Vahid Aghaie, Global Institute for Water Security and Department of Geography and Planning

Additional Author(s): Corinne Schuster-Wallace, Global Institute for Water Security and Department of Geography and Planning

Abstract: Coupled human and water systems are complex systems incorporating manifold, adaptive, and heterogeneous agents interacting with each other and their environment through bi-directional feedback loops. Any strategy or policy aiming to mitigate an undesirable condition in such complex systems can cause a change in individual-level adaptation processes (i.e. the social system) which in turn impacts the hydrological system. Such two-way feedbacks between the social and hydrological systems result in a variation in the system-level behavior, affecting each other through these loops and evolving toward a more appreciable change in the system. This means that the policy once implemented for a purpose, for instance reducing water insecurity, may not be effective anymore as the system has been changed significantly through time, highlighting the significance of adaptive management. This study develops a coupled agent-based hydrological model accounting for social and hydrological processes to understand how different flood mitigation policies, including non-structural (e.g. early warning systems) and structural (e.g. low impact developments) measures, can be adaptively implemented to reduce flood risks. In particular, this study attempts to understand how policy implementation changes social behaviors, how social values and norms may impact hydrological systems, and how the coupled system co-evolves through two-way feedback loops.

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Bridging Troubled Waters: Ten Progressive Best Practices to Strengthen Stewardship and Sharing of Water Science Data in Canada

First Author: Krysha Dukacz, McMaster University

Additional Author(s): Bhaleka Persaud, Water Institute, University of Waterloo; Gopal Saha, Wilfrid Laurier University; Laleh Moradi, University of Saskatchewan; Stephen O'Hearn, University of Saskatchewan


Abstract: Water science data are an immensely valuable asset providing the foundation for current research and supporting the launch of new inquiries.The careful management of water science data, from planning to publishing, can help to retain and enhance the value created through the investment of funders and the work of researchers. As the world faces increasingly complex water issues, the implementation of research data management practices can help to secure the availability of these data. The global trend towards increased data availability is reflected in the Canadian research community through directives such as Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government and theTri-Agency Research Data Management Policywhich seek to strengthen Canadian research by improving access to research data generated by federally funded scientific activities. Many journals fortify these efforts through data policies that require datasets supporting publications to be archived and to align with FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable), CARE (Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, and Ethics), and OCAP (First Nations principles of ownership, control, access, and possession) guiding principles. Within the context of the Canadian water science community, GWF champions effective data management and serves as a proponent of ensuring valuable data assets are preserved to support future research endeavors. GWF researchers joined with data managers to develop the “Ten best practices to strengthen stewardship and sharing of water science data in Canada“ to provide a starting point from which to enhance research data management within water science projects. Here we highlight these practices and illustrate how incorporating data management standards at the outset of a water science research project benefits researchers through increased efficiency and ensures the data will continue to be of value beyond the life of the project. Common misapprehensions about data management, and practical advice to help water science researchers and students employ data management best practices and tools in their work will be discussed. As well, tips and many freely available resources will be shared and their impact illustrated through examples of how these have been adapted to support data management within the Global Water Futures Programme.


Development of a Computable General Equilibrium Model for Hydro-Economic Analyses of the Canadian Economy

First Author: Jorge A. Garcia

Additional Author(s): Roy Brouwer


Abstract: Current macro-economic modeling in GWF of water resources management rely primarily on input-output approaches which have a number of limitations for economic analyses. Among these are the exclusion of prices for commodities and input factors, the lack of primary input substitution and technological innovation, their short-term validity, and their partial description of the economy, namely the industry production side.


A Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model is a more comprehensive modeling tool that describes the economy using a systems approach where all elements of the economy are interrelated with each other, either directly or indirectly. These models allow for price changes in commodities and factors, primary input shocks, technological change, and commodity substitution. Therefore, CGE models produce a more accurate response of the economy to water quantity or quality changes.


A novel water CGE model is therefore developed for the Canadian economy. Water is introduced as a primary input for production in the industries that extract water directly from different water sources. Other primary inputs are land, other natural resources, labor, and capital. The water supply sector and water delivery and irrigation commodities are explicitly singled-out. Water flows and costs are taken from the values reported by Statistics Canada.


The development of the CGE model entailed the construction of social accounting matrices where economic data on supply and use tables, current and capital flows of economic agents, and financial flows are collected and balanced to produce a consistent picture of the economy.


Scenarios are developed to reflect expected future water supply shocks to the Canadian economy as a result of climate and land use changes (e.g., increase in irrigated agriculture) and are tested for their direct and indirect economic impacts. In these scenario’s, water supply is increased or decreased up to 50% with respect to current baseline water intake values. It’s been found that the economy produces a non-linear response with respect to water changes. The contraction of GDP produced by decreasing available water is higher than the expansion of GDP due to increasing water availability. For example, a 50% reduction in water supply produces a 0.08% GDP contraction, whereas a 50% water increase yields only a 0.04% GDP expansion. The economy hence seems more sensible to water shortages than water expansion. Among the various industries using water, the mining sector is most sensitive to water supply changes, followed by utilities, manufacturing and agriculture.


This newly developed CGE model holds promise to produce more comprehensive hydro-economic analyses, and better valuate the role of water in the Canadian economy for present and future generations.

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Assessing the impact of climate change on the McKenzie Creek in the Great Lakes Region

First Author: Tariq Deen, McMaster University


Additional Author(s): Altaf Arain, McMaster University; Olivier Champagne, McMaster University; Patricia Chow-Fraser, McMaster University; Dawn Martin-Hill, McMaster University


Abstract: The McKenzie Creek is an intermediate size tributary within the southern portion of the Grand River in the Great Lakes Basin. The Creek is an important ecosystem service provider, supplying water for agricultural irrigation to the rural communities within the sub-watershed as well as the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, the largest First Nations community by population in Canada. It is understood that lakes, river, and streams will be impacted by temperature increases and changes in precipitation patterns. Climate change projections for the McKenzie Creek sub-watershed indicate that the region will experience a 3-6°C increase in annual average temperature and increase in winter and early spring precipitation. This study explores the impact of climate change on the streamflow of the McKenzie Creek. The Coupled Groundwater and Surface-Water Flow Model (GSFLOW) was used to simulate changes in streamflow within the sub-watershed from 1951 to 2099. GSFLOW was run using observed NRCANmet gridded data, and 11 downscaled Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) Global Climate Models (GCM) under Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios. Findings suggest that in the future McKenzie Creek streamflow will be most affected during winter months with streamflow projected to increase while spring streamflow is expected to decrease and summer and fall streamflow will experience little to no change. These changes may lead to more winter and early spring flooding events, while summer low flows may result in drought events in this sub-watershed. Understanding of how climatic changes will impact the McKenzie Creek streamflow will provide water managers and users with important information to better plan of the future.


Foregrounding the human dimensions of hydrological change to improve adaptation outcomes

First Author: Graham McDowell, University of Calgary / Canadian Mountain Assessment

Abstract: Climate-related   hydrological changes, such as those observed across high mountain areas   globally, portend dramatic consequences for those exposed to changes in water   availability, quality, and hydrological hazards. Pioneering hydrological   research is enhancing appreciation for the magnitude of the challenges such   changes portent for society, and underpins growing calls for adaptation   action to ameliorate the effects of changing hydrological systems.   Counterintuitively, however, natural scientific approaches are also playing   an outsized role in conceptualizing the social consequences of hydrological   changes, with unintended consequences on our ability to respond appropriately   and effectively to climate-related hydrological changes. Social scientists   have long called for foregrounding the human dimensions of hydrological   change, arguing that doing so can lead to a more accurate understanding of   who is vulnerable, to what stressors, how, why, and with what implications.   Such insights can, in turn, lead to a more precise targeting of adaptation   assistance, enhanced understanding of pre-existing social conditions that   enable or constrain adaptability, and more inclusive adaptation planning and   implementation processes, all of which have been demonstrated to improve   adaptation outcomes. This approach is gaining traction, but has not yet   garnered sufficient mainstream appreciation. While recognizing the   fundamental importance of hydrological sciences, this poster aims to shed   light on the ways in which social scientific approaches to the human   dimensions of hydrological change can support efforts to secure more   desirable socio-hydrological futures for those exposed to changes in water   availability, quality, and hydrological hazards.