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Enhancing resilience in Canada's water sector

Posted by Miriam Breslow on August 4, 2015 in News, Research

The director of the School of Public Administration and other researchers at Dalhousie are embarking on a project that will lead to a more resilient water sector for Canadians.

Dalhousie’s Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Initiative is joining with several organizations to research ways to enhance the resilience of Canada’s water sector. “This project required collaboration with a number of groups,” explains Dr. Kevin Quigley, director of the School of Public Administration and principal investigator of the CIP Initiative, which studies risk management and Canada’s critical infrastructure in a variety of sectors. Colin Macdonald, coordinator of the CIP Initiative and research assistant and alumnus of the School of Public Administration, explains how it came about: Quigley was invited by the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association’s (CWWA) Water Security and Emergency Management Committee to contribute to a sector-wide assessment of physical and cyber security. The Committee, comprising representatives from various municipal water utilities and a member from Public Safety Canada’s critical infrastructure team, was interested in a large-scale project: “They want to create a national risk profile for the water sector in Canada,” says Macdonald, “and we were in a good position to contribute.”

Last November, he says, “Kevin and I met with the CWWA’s security committee in Ottawa to plan the project and develop the proposal submission.” Eight months later, on July 17, the Canadian government announced the project to study water security as part of the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP), to the delight of the CWWA, Dalhousie, Public Safety Canada, Macdonald and Quigley. “The CIP Initiative at Dalhousie is doing work of national significance in water security,” says Quigley. “We will help to determine the risks associated with water supply and how to address them.”

Dalhousie will provide important aspects of the research expertise for this project, explains Macdonald, “with CWWA committing to provide sector-specific expertise and leveraging their membership to gather research data…. The end product will be a report, co-authored by Dalhousie and the CWWA, assessing resilience in the water sector and making recommendations on how to improve it.” Quigley emphasizes the collaborative nature of the project, involving not only Dalhousie and the CWWA, but also Public Safety Canada, which will contribute expertise particularly on cyber security, and the Centre for Security Science (Defence Research and Development Canada), which is providing funding and expert feedback on all reports. The project will also involve Dr. Calvin Burns, a CIP Initiative contributor from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland and an expert in risk psychology and large-scale survey methods.

It is due to this collaboration that the project is underway, says Quigley: “All of these people had to come together for this proposal to work.”