Research Nova Scotia Investing $1.1 Million in Water Surveillance to Support Rapid Decision-making for Partners and Public Decision Makers

March 27, 2023 (Halifax, NS) – Research Nova Scotia is investing $1.1 Million in water surveillance to support rapid decision-making for partners and public decision makers.

“Wastewater surveillance has been an important tool in monitoring SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 prevalence in populations and communities since the onset of the pandemic,” says Dr. Graham Gagnon of Dalhousie University, and director of the Centre for Water Resources Studies (CWRS). “Building on the success of this initial investment from Research Nova Scotia, we’re now working on applying the approach beyond wastewater and beyond COVID, to other water systems and other health threats in Nova Scotia”.

During the pandemic, the research team at Dalhousie worked with municipalities and universities across Nova Scotia to develop precision monitoring of viral loads in wastewater. The team quickly developed new prototypes for water sampling equipment, leading to new surveillance and treatment approaches to address unique water challenges. The additional investment will enable the team to acquire new genetic sequencing equipment. This equipment will eliminate the need to send samples out of province and develop a strong local capacity in processing environmental samples.

“The foundational work completed as part of a pandemic response has provided additional opportunities to address a range of water issues important to Nova Scotia,” says Stefan Leslie, CEO of Research Nova Scotia. “This work will not only continue to develop our capacity to monitor pathogens of concern in wastewater but will also help ensure safety of drinking and surface water.”

In addition to the wastewater surveillance research, the CWRS team has been researching harmful algal blooms produced by cyanobacteria that have become a priority in Atlantic Canada. As a result of climate change, these bacteria are turning up at a great frequency for longer durations in lakes across Nova Scotia.

“Cyanobacteria can release toxins and other compounds that affect water quality,” says Dr. Amina Stoddart at the CWRS. “Sampling and treatment approaches are needed to better understand, monitor, and prioritize risks.”

The same technology used to monitor for pathogens may also help optimize the efficiency of treatment plants. Dr Stoddart plans to test this precision monitoring technique to better understand how treatment equipment is working.

“By directly monitoring water during the treatment process, we hope to identify methods for safely treating water that is also fast and energy efficient” says Dr Stoddart.

Research Nova Scotia has supported the research team for the last three years and is ready to invest in an area that shows considerable promise.  

 “Our hope is that this investment today will help keep Nova Scotians safe in the future,” says Leslie. “We’re pleased to further advance water surveillance approaches and treatments to help our province respond to future threats.”

For more information contact:

Research Nova Scotia
Stephanie Reid
Director, Marketing & Communications

Research Nova Scotia
Research Nova Scotia supports, organizes, and coordinates research. With the curiosity to imagine a better world, and the determination to make it real, we champion the people and resources needed to improve the lives of Nova Scotians. Learn more about our research missions at