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University Of Guelph Announces $1 Million Commitment From RBC Blue Water Project To Improve Water And Biodiversity In First Nations Communities

GUELPH, ON, June 21, 2013 /CNW/ - The University of Guelph announced today a $1 million commitment from the RBC Blue Water Project to support teaching and research initiatives in water and ecosystem monitoring, as well as treatment and conservation on First Nations reserves.

"Water contamination is one of the most important health-related environmental problems facing First Nations communities," said president of the University of Guelph, Alastair Summerlee. "These communities also face serious and increasingly complex threats to ecosystem biodiversity. We have the research and teaching expertise and commitment -- and now, thanks to RBC, additional resources to make a difference."

The new education and research initiative includes student field projects to help them learn more about water and biodiversity. The gift was made through the BetterPlanet Project, the University's $200-million fundraising campaign for teaching and research in food, environment, health and communities.

"We're proud to support the University of Guelph in its efforts to assist First Nations communities and help protect one of the world's most precious natural resources - fresh water," said Dave McKay, group head, personal and commercial banking, RBC. " Canada is considered a water-rich country, but many areas, including our Aboriginal communities, are under serious water stress, and shortages are becoming alarmingly common in communities across the country. Working together with the University of Guelph and other organizations, we can help ensure we have safe, clean water, now and in the future."

Currently, the University of Guelph has more than 100 faculty members and hundreds of students and researchers involved in water-related projects. The RBC Blue Water Project commitment will strengthen projects and support new initiatives, with self-sufficiency and sustainability being major program goals. Efforts will include:

  • Training and helping with water and wastewater treatment and monitoring;
  • Helping First Nations determine priorities and strategic solutions to protect biological and cultural diversity;
  • Fostering responsibility and control of community water systems and health;
  • Developing tools to improve drinking water inspection and quality;
  • Removing toxins and pathogens from water;
  • Sponsoring workshops, projects and communication initiatives;
  • Helping develop emergency response and water protection plans;
  • Determining human impacts on aquatic ecosystems; and
  • Working globally with aboriginal populations to create biodiversity resources.

"First Nations communities urgently need training in water engineering and stewardship," said Kevin Hall, vice president of research, the University of Guelph. A civil engineer and water expert, he studies environmental monitoring and pathogen detection systems, as well as water and health in marginalized communities.

More than 100 First Nations communities across Canada are under "boil water" advisories -- some more than a decade old. Many First Nations communities have been deemed "high risk" due to deficiencies in drinking and/or wastewater systems.

The incidence of water-borne diseases is several times higher in First Nations communities than in the general population, partly because of inadequate or non-existent water treatment systems. Causes include water source quality, inadequate treatment and testing, poor recordkeeping, and complex governance and jurisdictional issues.

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