St Catherines Standard: Brock leading research on water issues in Niagara

Water is an asset and, just like finances, its long-term value and potential problems need to be monitored.

That’s the focus behind Liquid Assets, a research study being done by Brock University at the request of the Niagara Region’s Water Smart program.

The goal is to assess Niagara’s water supply and demand and to answer three main questions: How does water impact the region? Who does what when it comes to regulation and water quality monitoring? And what are the water issues Niagara will be facing in the future?

“There are hundreds of studies in the U.S. and dozens in Canada that look at water as an economic asset, but we couldn’t find any studies that specifically talked about Niagara,” said Steven Renzetti, a professor with Brock’s Department of Economics who is heading up the study through the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. “Niagara is a blue economy – all of our sectors rely on good, clean water.”

Katelyn Vaughan, the project manager for the region’s Niagara Water Strategy, said Brock is being paid $60,000 to complete the research, which will be compiled into a report expected to be released in early 2013.

“Through this report, we can identify what the challenges are and to identify potential conflicts,” she said.

The research started about a year ago with a survey of municipalities and others involved in water quality and supply.

That was followed by a workshop in October, where it became obvious that a single source for water research was needed.

“We’re recognizing some of this knowledge does exist, but it’s not easily accessible. We have really good researchers who can’t access it,” Vaughan said.

She used water quality at beaches as an example of an area where historical data on beach closures exists, but isn’t available in one spot for the public to find.

Renzetti said the report can be used by the region and municipalities as they move forward in planning.

“You’re putting infrastructure in today that’s going to last 30 or 40 years, so you want to make the right decisions now, even though you might not think scarcity or conflicts are going to arise,” he said. “The last thing you want is in 20 years to be thinking ‘oh I wish we had of thought of that’.”

The local Liquid Assets study is part of a larger water research network launched earlier this year at Brock through a $2.3 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The research network will look at water-related issues across the country.

Studying water

* Liquid Assets: Assessing Water’s Contribution to Niagara

* Study requested by Niagara Region’s Water Smart program

* Research being done by Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

* Final report expected to be completed in early 2013


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