Vulnerability of northern drinking water sources to environmental change
Principal Investigator: Comte, Jerome (3)
Licence Number: 17177
Organization: Institut national de la recherche scientifique
Licensed Year(s): 2023 2022
Issued: Jan 16, 2023
Project Team: Isabelle Laurion, Manuel Rodriguez, Caetano Dorea, Irena Creed, François Guillemette, Alexander Culley, Joao Canario, Kirsty Gurney, Stephanie Guillerme, Catherine Girard, Arthur Zastepa, Daniel Houle, Lori Bradford

Objective(s): To assess the implications of climate change on drinking water quality and practices, and to implement a community-based monitoring program.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.5418.

The overarching goal of this project is to assess the implications of climate change on drinking water quality and practices, and to implement a community-based monitoring program. Specifically, the research team will: 1) engage and work with local communities to co-design and undertake a drinking water quality monitoring program from the drinking water source to the tap, 2) characterize the link between dissolved organic matter (DOM) properties and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) formation and the microbial communities in sources of drinking water for communities, and 3) investigate the fate of microbial communities and chemical contaminants across water purification procedures, delivery and storage. This database built using state-of-the-art methods in parallel to low cost methods will then allow the development of algorithms to quantify DOM, cyanobacteria and DBPs with hand-held sensors that can be applied globally or locally in northern regions.

In partnership with the community of Fort Good Hope (FGH) the research team will co-create a timeline for data gathering and local sampling of surface waters exploited as drinking water supplies across the Canadian North. In the first year, the team will engage communities to inform where the surveys need to focus. In the second and third year, local communities will perform additional sampling as part of the community-based monitoring plan, expanding the spatiotemporal coverage. Site visits will include meeting with community members, recruitment of local research coordinator identified by the community and coordinated with FGH-Renewable resources council, exchanging knowledge on drinking water sources and sampling procedures, measuring limnological properties of water sources and collecting water samples from source to tap. Water samples will be further analysed in laboratories to characterize DOM properties, microbial communities and chemical properties. In addition, community members will be trained and provided with a pair of portable fluorometers (Turner Designs AquaFluor®) to quantify DOM, DBPs and cyanobacteria. On second year, the team will leave the fluorometers with trained community designates who will use them over a longer time frame. Water chemistry - Water samples will be analyzed for dissolved organic carbon, DOM optical properties (spectroscopy) and high-resolution mass spectrometry (Guillemette). Cyanotoxin concentrations will be assessed (Zastepa), and DBPs will be analysed according to EPA methods (Rodriguez, Dorea). Key priority inorganic pollutants (arsenic, mercury, lead) will be analysed (Canário) to assess the potential risks to communities. Microbiology - Microbial community composition including viruses and bacteria will be determined using next generation sequencing technologies, while coliforms and cyanotoxins producing genes will be detected by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays. Algorithm development - This is done through the comparison of state-of-the-art laboratory measurements (DOM, cyanobacteria and DBPs) to the fluorometric assessments (Aquafluor sensors), and the determination of region-specific or pan-arctic algorithms (Laurion).

During a visit in Fort Good Hope in December 2019, the project lead met in person and discussed this proposal with the K’asho Gotine Charter Community Council Chief, the president of Fort Good Hope Renewable Resource Council, the Executive Director of the Sahtu´ Land and Water Board, and the president of the Yamoga Land Corporation. The goal of the meeting was to assess the interest and level of support from the community for the project and the support was extremely strong as the quality of drinking water is of great concern in the community.

The collaboration and support from the community members and agencies of Fort Good Hope is critical for this project. To maintain this good relationship, the research team will collaboratively build a research plan, and continue to work together through regular meetings and written communications. A community coordinator will provide guidance to researchers on how to appropriately engage with and train community members to collect data and translate research findings. The engagement is driven by community voices and preferences ensuring equal opportunity for all. Engagement activities may include but are not limited to: community meals, site visits, instrumental measurements, regular results sharing meetings, and other methods as agreed on by community and research team members. The community’s partnership will be acknowledged in all communications and results will be shared with the communities through meetings and plain language reports. Data will be made available through the Mackenzie DataStream. Recent discussions with program coordinator, DataStream (Gordon Foundation) has expressed great interest in the type of data this proposal will generate.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from January 16, 2023 to December 31, 2023.