March 22 marks World Water Day, a day to celebrate water and raise awareness of water issues. Its theme this year, declared by the United Nations (UN), is “Groundwater – Making the Invisible Visible.” 

That’s the perfect theme for the Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute (Morwick G360) at the University of Guelph, which will host a workshop – along with U of G’s One Health Institute, the Guelph Institute for Environmental Research and the School of Engineering – to mark the annual observance.

Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute logo.
Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute logo.

“This year the focus of World Water Day is on groundwater and the essential role it plays in sustaining life at all levels around the globe,” said Dr. Beth Parker, Morwick G360 director and U of G engineering professor. “We believe that this event will be stimulating for students, professionals and our local community, and invite everyone to join us all day if they can or drop in as their schedules allow.” 

Inaugurated in 1993 by the UN, and coordinated by UN-Water, World Water Day focuses on the importance of water while bringing attention to those without access to safe water and tackling the global water crisis. It also aims to aid in “the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.” 

Important workshop, important topics 

Morwick G360 has hosted events marking World Water Day in the past, “but this year is bigger than usual” because of its focus on groundwater, said Scott Johnston, information and communications coordinator for Morwick G360.  

Groundwater is a major water supply globally and within Canada, providing drinking water to 30 per cent of Canadians and more than half the world’s population. But the often-overlooked resource is threatened by contamination, overuse and mismanagement.  It is a critical component of the freshwater cycle, providing much-needed resilience in the face of climate change. 

“The City of Guelph is the largest community in Canada to rely on bedrock groundwater for its drinking supply, and maintaining this resource sustainably is of the utmost importance for the local community and ecosystem health,” said Parker.  

The event will look at global and national issues in groundwater and water supply and management, while celebrating local source water protection.  

This includes the 20th anniversary of the Walkerton Inquiry Report completed in 2002, providing numerous recommendations to ensure safe drinking water for all Canadians, including Indigenous communities.  

Promotional poster for Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute's World Water Day workshop,
Promotional poster for Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute’s World Water Day workshop.

“We will reflect on the lessons learned from Justice Dennis O’Connor’s Walkerton report – a landmark document that set Ontario on the path to safeguarding its groundwater in the wake of tragedy – and the work still to be done,” Johnston said.  

The event will also feature keynote speaker Dr. Mark Borchardt, a research virologist with the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service, who studies the transport of human pathogens. His presentation, “Cows, People, and the Debate over Groundwater Quality in Wisconsin, USA,” will focus on groundwater and health.  

Morwick G360’s workshop will be run in a hybrid format on March 22 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with student posters at lunch and an end-of-day reception. Registration is mandatory, but the event is free.