Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

research impact

For the period 2015–19

№ relevant publications: 627

№ times cited: 4,759

Key Stats

1,371,587 m³ total water consumption in 2019/20

28.72 m³ water consumption per person

Map of North Campus hydration stations

sample Courses


Water management plan

The U of A’s Watego Water Management Plan provides a university-wide water stewardship framework that sets a way forward for water use reductions, infrastructure upgrades in washrooms and labs, behaviour change campaigns, and pilots of innovative technologies. 

North Campus Open Space Plan

The North Campus Open Space Plan, released in 2014, includes sustainability as a key consideration for space planners. Section 5.6 provides strategies to limit the use of potable water for landscape irrigation and instead incorporate rainwater, stormwater and grey water as assets. Elsewhere, the plan prioritizes native plants that are drought tolerant, and it calls for rainwater retaining infrastructure such as wetlands, bioswales, rain gardens and green roofs.

City of Edmonton Drainage Services Bylaw

The U of A Utilities Group operates (North Campus) or manages (remaining campuses) the storm and sanitary system for the university; wastewater is then sent for treatment at local municipal facilities. Wastewater treatment is subject to bylaw 18093 (drainage bylaw). Water quality standards and guidelines ensure the protection of ecosystems, wildlife and human health and welfare.

Managing Water Risks

The U of A has policies, processes and guidelines to prevent polluted water from entering the water system, either as a result of accidents/incidents on campus or otherwise, including: guidelines on how to package hazardous waste; a process for hazardous waste pick up and disposal; Biosafety Guidelines for use and storage of biological materials; a policy on assignment of accountability for Environmental Management; and Environment, Health, and Safety Responsibilities.



New sustainable on-farm solutions are needed so that agricultural producers can conserve groundwater through the safe use of nontraditional irrigation water sources. CONSERVE (COordinating Nontraditional Sustainable watER use in Variable climatEs) is facilitating the adoption of solutions to reduce agricultural water challenges exacerbated by climate change.


Advanced Water Research Lab

The Advanced Water Research Lab is developing high-performance membrane materials, processes, and characterization methods of water recycling and reuse, particularly in the in situ oil sands extraction industry. The research programs in AWRL contribute to the science of polymer and nanocomposite materials in various applications, including desalination and wastewater treatment, energy, and pharmaceutical.

Southern Rockies Watershed Project

This large, interdisciplinary research team based at the U of A is improving our understanding of the connections between the climate, hydrology and ecology of the South Saskatchewan River’s headwaters in the Rocky Mountains. This research includes insights into the impacts of wildfires on drinking water and the impacts of land disturbance on water quality.

Tracking Change

Tracking Change is a multi-year social science research network of Indigenous communities, universities, governments, and other organizations building capacity for documenting and sharing local and traditional knowledge about changes in the Mackenzie River Basin. Graduate students and community partners are working together to document observations and experience of disturbances to fish, fish habitat, water levels and water quality.

Water & Resource Recovery Lab

A project based out of the University of Alberta, the Water & Resource Recovery Lab provides information, resources, public engagement and policy implementation roadmaps for water reuse and resource recovery systems. The project focuses on wastewater reuse, stormwater use and rainwater use. U of A researcher Nicholas Ashbolt informed the recent creation of a set of “Public Health Guidelines for Water Reuse and Stormwater Use” released by Alberta Health Services to guide water reuse projects in Alberta.

Notable Stories

🔗 AI pilot project aims to make water treatment greener, more efficient and less expensive

U of A computing scientists working with Edmonton tech company and town of Drayton Valley to find out whether applying AI to water treatment is a financial and environmental win-win.

🔗 Glacier to table: Understanding the effects of melting glaciers on drinking water

Researchers at the University of Alberta are undertaking a new project to explore how melting glaciers will affect current and future quality of drinking water in Western Canada.

🔗 Nanotechnology innovation in water recycling could significantly reduce industrial use of freshwater

Advancement in water filtration technology has applications everywhere from the energy industry and agriculture to municipal water treatment.

🔗 Student’s ingenuity saves thousands of litres of water in chemistry labs
DIY system designed and built for the University of Alberta’s Campus Saint-Jean.