Brock research projects help Niagara with water smarts

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Brock research projects help Niagara with water smarts

Published on November 02 2011

Several Brock researchers want to help Niagarans increase their water smarts.

Thanks to two grants from the WaterSmart Incentive program, five Brock faculty members and a team of graduate and undergraduate students are putting together detailed analysis related to one of our most precious resources: water.

The researchers belong to a variety of disciplines, but came together under the banner of the Brock Environmental Sustainability Research Unit, formed recently to pursue innovative and interdisciplinary research concerning the environment, sustainability, and social-ecological resilience.

“Canadians, in general, tend to think that we are water-rich and that the issue of water can be ignored,” noted Diane Dupont, Economics professor and principal investigator for one of the grants. “Compared to other countries, Canada overall has an enviable amount of water but there are still regions that suffer from droughts. In addition, if we think about attributes such as quality, and that quality is being lowered when we dump our effluents into rivers and lakes, then we are not as water-rich as we think.”

The two project grants are worth a combined total of $110,000.

Dupont is working with Steven Renzetti, also a professor of Economics, Tim Heinmiller, an associate professor in Political Science, and Ryan Plummer, a professor in Tourism and Environment, on the project “Liquid Assets: Assessing Water’s Contribution to Niagara’s Economy.” Over the next 12 months, the research team will document the role water plays in the Niagara community and economy, as a way of planning to maximize water’s sustainable contribution to the region in the future.

The team will then prepare a research paper and hold one-day workshops to share the findings with regional government staff, elected officials and other related stakeholders.

Ryan Plummer, a professor in Tourism and Environment, is responsible for the other project, entitled “Climate Change Impacts and Implications for Niagara.” Plummer and colleagues will develop a Niagara-specific climate change background document, which will summarize present climate change knowledge and activities. Similar to Dupont’s project, these working documents will be presented to regional government officials and other key stakeholders, for feedback, before the final reports are drafted.

The reports, and resulting conversations and revelations, will then be used to help form a Climate Action Plan for Niagara.

Real illustrations of climate change impacts in Niagara, as well as examples of relevant responses from other places, will be included in the project results, according to Ilze Andzans, project manager for WaterSmart Niagara, a program run through Niagara Region. “We anticipate that the impact of the project results will inspire those presently involved with climate change adaptation, while further motivating Niagara residents to take action,” she said.

Both teams will have the expertise of postdoctoral fellow Julia Baird, who recently joined Brock following her studies at the University of Saskatchewan. Plummer’s team will also be working with Jennifer Penney, past Director of Research for the Clean Air Partnership, because of her expertise on how other cities in the Great Lakes region have studied climate change, potential adaptation options and related processes. Bradley May, Environment Canada and adjunct professor in Tourism and Environment, will contribute data and experiences from his research on impacts and adaptation. Graduate and undergraduate students involved include Blair Carter, Katrina Krievins, Kerrie Pickering, Samantha Purdy and Olga Yudina.

“This is not a one-off research project; it is an ongoing collaboration and partnership with the community which will benefit the region for years to come, and possibly for generations to come,” noted Plummer. Both research projects fall under the recently signed Agreement between the Regional Municipality of Niagara and Brock University.

For information on BESRU, visit

For more information:
Diane Dupont, professor, Economics, 905-688-5550 x3129

Carolyn Mullin, research communications manager, 905-688-5550 x5789