Assessing impact of COVID‑19 pandemic on water quality in Canadian lakes to facilitate upcoming water resources planning and management

Kheyrollah Pour, Homa | $50,000

Ontario Wilfrid Laurier University 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

Improving water quality is a growing concern in Canada, which mainly derives from poor water management, agricultural practices and urban development. Problems associated with water quality due to agricultural practices are an important factor with respect to nutrient and pollutant contribution loadings into an aquatic system as a result of point source and non-point source activities. When the COVID‑19 pandemic is over, water quality problems will still be a critical challenge in Canada. An important question is what can be learned from the pandemic that we can subsequently apply in our agricultural water management practices to address the diverse array of water quality issues in Canada. This requires science-based policies based on scientific outcomes of current observations and future scenarios, which require clear communication between various levels of government and academic sectors.

Like many countries worldwide, Canada has been significantly affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic. The outbreak has significantly impacted agricultural activity in Canada (and worldwide). It is expected that farmers will plant approximately 40 percent less compared to what they would normally plant due to a shortage of labor for planting, as well as higher costs of operation. Moreover, industrial activities have also been affected by the pandemic. Therefore, during the pandemic, the decrease in agricultural and industrial activities is likely to affect water quality since there will be a decrease in the use of fertilizers, a decrease in decomposed crop residues, and a decrease in agricultural and industrial waste. However, there is still time to avoid the worst impacts of water quality, and lessons learned from COVID‑19 can be helpful to address this critical national issue and provide information for future water management planning activities. The aim of this research is to understand the linkages between these agricultural and industrial activities, water quality (i.e. in terms of algal bloom growth, Chl-a) and ecosystem impacts during the COVID‑19 outbreak, which can be selected as a baseline year against which future loading reductions toward the new binational targets could be evaluated to help provide useful information for future water management plans and decision-making.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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