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Grenfell Campus Memorial University
​​Edwin Bezzina
TROUBLED WATERS
"I hope that this will be the beginning of a continued effort to bring together Memorial researchers to address this multi-faceted problem that really needs to be addressed in an inter-disciplinary fashion."

While popular images of Newfoundland and Labrador are replete with pristine lakes and rivers, rural communities across the province face ongoing challenges surrounding their public drinking water systems.

Dr. Kelly Vodden and her team have been working to get to the root of potable water issues in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. Vodden is a member of a group of Memorial University researchers (community-based, government and academic) focused on rural and regional development. Her explorations into drinking water issues began with a community-based study in Indian Bay in the spring of 2012, which led to a province-wide study that began in the winter of 2013.

Dr. Vodden and her team of colleagues from both St. John’s and Grenfell campuses decided to tackle the worldwide challenge of providing safe, clean drinking water to all citizens, starting in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the fall of 2014, the team released an eye-opening report.

The research summary report identifies risks and challenges influencing drinking water quality and availability in rural areas, particularly Newfoundland and Labrador communities of 1,000 residents or fewer.

The report doesn’t point to a single challenge; rather, the affected communities face a multitude of complex, intermingled issues. Source water quality and quantity; public perception, awareness and demand; policy and governance; and municipal infrastructure and operations all affect the integrity of the province’s drinking water supplies and distribution systems, and ultimately the health of its population.

By engaging government and community partners throughout the project, including Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the Professional Municipal Administrators group, the researchers expect the research and recommendations will lead to concrete actions to benefit towns and communities with drinking water challenges.

“I hope that this will be the beginning of a continued effort to bring together Memorial researchers to address this multi-faceted problem that really needs to be addressed in an inter-disciplinary fashion,” said Dr. Vodden.

The research completed by Dr. Vodden and her team, coordinated by PhD student Sarah Minnes, is an example of Memorial’s Public Engagement Framework in action. By working with government and community partners throughout the research process, and approaching the issue from the community’s perspective, the report provides a crucial guide for rural communities in addressing public drinking water issues. Next steps may require substantial funding to replace deteriorating infrastructure and for new technologies and management approaches as well as further research. Acquiring the means and resources for communities and the province to fulfill these next steps may take time; however, Dr. Vodden says that addressing the needs of our rural communities and their public drinking water systems can begin today.

More information on the study can be found at: http://nlwater.ruralresilience.ca

FUNDERS

  • Harris Centre RBC Water Research and Outreach Fund
  • Mitacs Accelerate Internship program

COLLABORATORS

  • Municipalities Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Professional Municipal Administrators

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