Water Innovation

Back to all Programs

Sustaining Alberta’s water supply

Alberta’s population is expected to continue to grow and exceed 6 million people by 2050 and with that, demand for water will continue to increase. Ensuring Alberta has the quality and quantity of water needed is a priority for Alberta Innovates. The Water Innovation Program is designed to help the Government of Alberta achieve the outcomes of the Alberta Water Research and Innovation Strategy (2014): A Renewal (AWRIS) and the goals of the Water for Life Strategy:

  1. Safe, secure drinking water;
  2. Healthy aquatic ecosystems; and
  3. Reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy.  

The program builds on a history of world-class research and innovation and helps create and apply relevant, reliable and credible knowledge and information that will lead to a high-performing, innovative and responsive water system for the province of Alberta. 

Funding and expertise to protect Alberta’s water 

We support water innovation that will:

  1. Help to create a cleantech industry in water treatment;
  2. Improve water use, conservation, efficiency, and productivity by 30 percent by 2030; and/or,
  3. Provide safe, secure, and reliable water resources while maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems. 

We invite you to browse through Making Waves, an Alberta Innovates publication highlighting work being done to advance water solutions in Alberta. 

How project funding works

We provide funding through a continuous intake process and competitive calls for proposals.

Visit the Clean Resources Continuous Intake Application Process page for details on the continuous intake process.

Competitive calls for proposals are generally run every three years.

Water Innovation Program 2022 Call for Proposals

See the current competitive call for proposals for the Water Innovation Program.

Four key themes

Project are funded under four themes. Key government, industry and stakeholder organizations are consulted on a regular basis to inform the investment priorities in each theme.

Theme 1: Future Water Supply and Watershed Management

All major rivers in Alberta derive their water from the Rockies. Given that most Albertans use water from surface water sources, it is important to understand the ability of these mountain and foothill systems to continue to provide a stable water supply to Alberta’s rivers and watersheds. Even though it is out of sight, groundwater also plays a significant role in water supply for our economy and communities. Surface water and groundwater are interdependent; both are influenced by climate change, how we use the land and increased economic activity. Holistic approaches are needed to build understanding of impacts and develop strategies to sustainably manage our water supplies.

Priorities in this theme include:

  • Improve understanding of the impact of climate change on water supplies (including development of adaptive strategies).
  • Characterize groundwater resources and its role in sustainable water supply (including development of best management practices).
  • Understand the impact of increased economic activity and population on water resources (including development of adaptive strategies).
  • Improve understanding of risks to source water and headwater supplies (including development of management strategies).
  • Develop holistic approaches to managing water supplies (consider land-use, groundwater and surface water, water-energy-food nexus).  

Theme 2: Healthy Aquatic Ecosystems

Healthy aquatic ecosystems are vital to a high quality of life for Albertans and provide critical ecological goods and services. Alberta’s growing population and economy, coupled with increasing impacts from climate variability and global change, will impact the health of aquatic ecosystems. Tools and strategies are needed to mitigate and manage these impacts.

Priorities in this theme include:

  • Mitigate and manage impacts of nutrient loading on Alberta lakes.
  • Mitigate and manage impacts of invasive species.
  • Mitigate and manage impacts of human-derived contaminants on aquatic ecosystems.
  • Improve understanding of cumulative landscape-level impacts and develop mitigation strategies.
  • Develop tools and strategies to conserve and enhance riparian areas.
  • Improve understanding of the efficacy of wetland restoration and reclamation.

Theme 3: Water Use Conservation, Efficiency, and Productivity

Water is a vital element of our economy and our communities. While Alberta is considered a water rich province, only so much water can be sustainably pulled from the system. Improving the conservation, efficiency and productivity (CEP) of water use enables the growth of our economy and communities while still preserving critical environmental flows. Significant improvements in CEP have been made in the last decade, yet more progress is needed to meet the water needs of Albertans. In addition to CEP strategies and technologies, tools are needed to inform decision making and development of business cases to enable implementation.

Priorities in this theme include:

  • Develop strategies and technologies for municipal wastewater and stormwater reuse.
  • Develop strategies and technologies to improve industrial water use efficiency (focus on southern Alberta/areas with restricted water use).
  • Develop strategies and technologies to improve water management in the agricultural sector.
  • Develop integrated (cross-sector) approaches to conservation, efficiency and productivity (consider water-energy-food nexus).
  • Develop risk-based decision tools supporting water management.
  • Develop full cost accounting tools supporting water management.
  • Understand impacts of conservation, efficiency and productivity efforts on aquatic ecosystems and watershed supplies.

Theme 4: Water Quality Protection

All Albertans have the right to access safe, secure water supplies. Protecting Alberta’s water for safe use and consumption requires a detailed understanding of the input and impact of contaminants to both surface and groundwater, particularly non-point source inputs and emerging contaminants (micro-plastics, pharmaceuticals, etc.). Climate variability and evolving land management practices will also impact the quality of Alberta’s water and challenge conventional water treatment for a growing population. While water quality challenges are being faced across the province, rural, Indigenous, and remote communities are in critical need of a focused approach to their unique water security issues.

Priorities in this theme include:

  • Develop low-cost solutions and strategies to address drinking water and wastewater challenges in small, Indigenous and/or remote communities.
  • Understand, mitigate and manage non-point source contamination.
  • Understand, mitigate and manage contaminant impacts on water supplies (focus on emerging contaminants).
  • Improve understanding of the impact of climate variability and land management practices on water quality (including development of best management practices).
  • Support safe oil sands mine water release (including development of low-energy mine water treatment options).

Resources

To view final reports and project summaries associated with this program, view our Project Library.