September 6, 2016 8:38 pm
Updated: September 7, 2016 7:29 am

University of Saskatchewan awarded $77.8 million in research funding

WATCH ABOVE: A $77 million grant from the federal government will go to the University of Saskatchewan to study water threats. As Meaghan Craig reports, it will help researchers develop ways of forecasting and mitigating water-related threats.

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A series of research projects across the country are receiving a big boost from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).

A total of $900 million has been awarded to 13 Canadian post-secondary institutions including the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). The U of S is the only institution in the nation to have received the prestigious award twice as noted at Convocation Hall on Tuesday as part of the announcement.

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It was also clear as officials spoke that this landmark research funding for the U of S – $77,840,000 to be exact – has the potential to affect millions around the globe.

“We’re developing serious water problems across Western Canada, the rest of Canada as well as even the north and of course other parts of the world are less fortunate than we are,” said John Pomeroy, Canada research chair for water resources and climate change.

“So this puts Canada, it catapults us into the lead in developing solutions for that.”

Considered the largest university-led water research program ever funded worldwide, the funding should allow researchers to more accurately forecast and mitigate extreme events such as devastating floods, droughts and wild fires.

“These types of events are happening more frequently, we can expect them more frequently, we have to be ready. That means better prediction, better forecasting, more comprehensive forecasting of these things but also preparation,” Pomeroy said.

“Preparation includes managing our watersheds, managing our water more precisely so that we can deal with these things.”

The U of S-led water research network will involve more than 380 Canadian researchers at 18 universities as well as 19 federal and provincial agencies.

According to Pomeroy, the United States announced just last month a national water model that would do high resolution flood and flow forecasting.

“We want to do that and do one better, adding water quality to that as well.”

Nearly two weeks after the Husky oil spill contaminated the North Saskatchewan River, a 30-kilometre pipeline is carrying water from the South Saskatchewan River to Prince Albert.

Quality of life in communities is very much dependent on the quality and quantity of water you have. It’s all the more reason why experts say it’s crucial to protect the planet’s most precious natural resource from the impact of climate change.

“To predict it and prepare for it in advance can avoid quite literally millions and millions dollars in damages,” said Ralph Goodale, the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness.

“If you do it properly in developing the water diversion and storage facilities, you can actually develop the capacity to use water as an economic driver for broader economic development.”

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The potential payback of the Global Water Futures research program could far outweigh the initial investment.

“Research is highly-funded south of the border, in Europe it’s very competitive,” said Bettina Hamelin, vice-president of partnerships, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

“It’s competitive for the talent, it’s competitive for the partnerships, it’s competitive when you talk about disruptive technologies so this type of funding is really critical to help our Canadian researchers to pay at the global stage and be a leader at the stage.”

The 12 other initiatives that received funding included developing next-generation medical technologies, sustainability and safety of food production systems and improving human brain health.

Dalhousie University was granted the single largest award of $93,732,000 for its safe and sustainable development of ocean frontier initiatives.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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