2023 Events

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Wallberg Building, Room 219

Abstract: Coupled human-water systems are characterized by uncertainty, limited predictability, bounded rationality, indeterminate causality, and evolutionary change. To determine the impact of a specific policy intervention, an integrated analysis approach is needed that provides a holistic view of complex interactions within such systems. In this talk, Kaveh Madani highlights some of the major challenges of modeling and managing complex systems to argue why we often fail to develop comprehensive technological and policy solutions that can solve one problem without creating new ones.

Bio: Dr. Kaveh Madani is an environmental scientist, educator, and activist known for his work on complex human-natural systems at the interface of science, policy, and society. He is currently the Director of the United Nations University Institute of Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), known as the UN Think Tank on Water, where he leads scientific research and policy solutions to address the growing global water and environmental crises. Dr. Madani is a former Deputy Vice President of Iran who served as the Deputy Head of Iran’s Department of Environment. He has also served as the Vice President of the UN Environment Assembly Bureau and Chief of Iran’s Department of Environment’s International Affairs and Conventions Center. He held different strategic roles during his public service and led Iran’s delegation in different major intergovernmental meetings and negotiations. As a prolific scholar, Madani has worked extensively on complex issues in water management, environmental and energy policy, food security, climate change impacts and adaptation, sustainable development, and transboundary-conflicts and negotiations in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Middle East. He has received several prestigious awards and recognitions for his fundamental research contributions, teaching innovations, as well as outreach and humanitarian activities. Among these are the 2012 recognition by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as one of the ten New Faces of Civil Engineering, Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in 2016, and the ASCE’s Walter Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize in 2017. He holds a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Davis, Master of Water Resources from the Lund University and B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of Tabriz, and has done his post-doctoral research in Environmental Economics and Policy at the Water Science and Policy Center at the University of California, Riverside.

Violaine Ponsin

Université du Québec à Montréal


January 24, 2023

1 PM


Sandford Fleming Building (SF) 1009  


What are the processes responsible for the attenuation of pesticide concentrations in the environment? Is the remediation technique implemented in a contaminated site effective to remove the targeted contaminants? Compound-Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA) has a strong potential to identify and quantify the transformation processes of organic contaminants, whether they are legacy contaminants (hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents...) or emerging contaminants (herbicides). In this talk, I will present some recent analytical advances for the application of CSIA to emerging contaminants before giving some examples of the insights brought by this approach into the transformation of herbicides frequently detected in water resources.


Violaine Ponsin is an associate professor at Université du Québec à Montréal, in the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Her work focuses on the transport and transformation of organic contaminants in soils, surface and ground water. She obtained her PhD in Environmental Chemistry in 2015 from Aix-Marseille Université in France. She did then a first postdoc in the Centre for Hydrogeology and Geothermics of the Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland and a second one at the Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute at the University of Guelph, Ontario.


January 31, 2023

Time: 9:00 – 10:30 AM EST


This webinar is organised by the IWA Sanitation and Water Management in Developing Countries Specialist Group and it is co-hosted by the International Ultraviolet Association (IUVA). Women and girls often carry the responsibility of collecting water, and they are disproportionately affected by poor water services and contaminated water. However, their perspective has historically been excluded from large-scale efforts to improve water access in low-income settings. To overcome these inequalities, the voices and needs of women and girls must be at the forefront as we design new and effective methods of delivering safely managed drinking water to communities in developing regions. In response, this webinar will explore the crucial role of women in water resource management, particularly for water disinfection in small or rural communities. The discussions will start with a presentation on the connections between women and water, what influences those connections, and their importance. Water disinfection using ultraviolet (UV) light will then be introduced as an emerging tool to improve access to safely managed water for small, remote water systems. This will then be tied back to the overall theme of the webinar with a presentation of the results of a study investigating women’s perceptions of a novel household UV disinfection system in rural indigenous communities in Mexico. Finally, a panel discussion will be held to explore the role of women in water access and considerations for the safe and effective implementation of UV disinfection from a technological, behavioural, and institutional point of view.

Click here to register.

2022 Events

2019-20 Events

University of Tokyo

Thursday October 24, 2019
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Bahen Centre, Room 1240 (BA1240)
40 St. George Street
Toronto, ON M5S 2E4

The United Nation’s Agenda for Sustainable Development includes an acknowledgment that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies to improve health and inequality. Drinking water quality is a key factor affecting both of these, but finding solutions that provide access to clean water for communities in small, remote, and resource-poor parts of the world is difficult. For the past two decades, Dr. Kumiko Oguma has been exploring a variety of water-related challenges in underdeveloped areas in Asia. Projects include determining drinking water health risks following flooding in Jakarta, deterioration of water quality in distribution systems in Kathmandu, and identifying the potential source of a mysterious chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka. In this talk, Prof. Oguma will focus on a recent initiative to install solar-powered ultraviolet light systems in schools in the Philippines. Ultraviolet light is known to be an excellent drinking water disinfectant, but electrical supply and longevity of the UV light source have been obstacles in the past. Her current research is exploring LED sources for UV, which promise to be more robust than traditional lamps, requiring less maintenance and intervention. The presentation will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach, and highlight where this technology might best be applied moving forward.

KUMIKO OGUMA is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Engineering at the University of Tokyo. Her primary research interest is in the use of UV-based technologies for the control and prevention of waterborne infectious diseases. Prof. Oguma has spent considerable time investigating water-related health issues in developing countries in South and Southeast Asia. She currently serves as the Asia-Pacific Regional Vice President of the International Ultraviolet Association.

Technical University of Crete

Wednesday, October 30, 2019
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Room 150 (MY150)
55 St. George Street
Toronto, ON M5S 0C9

Plastic debris, and in particular secondary microplastics, represent a significant problem among the various pollution problems facing the marine environment. Several studies have been conducted on the fate and weathering of plastics in the marine environment including the generation and fate of microplastics. Laboratory results on the biodegradation of plastics show great variability. An important question, which remains unanswered, is what is the level of weathering that makes the common plastics (C-C backbone) biodegradable at a reasonably fast rate. In this presentation we focus on the determination of biodegradation and fragmentation rates of polystyrene and polyethylene films naturally weathered on beach sand as well as polypropylene films weathered in seawater mesocosms. Their fate in the water column is also examined. Overall, the results are very encouraging pointing to new challenges that need to be addressed for successful biodegradation of plastics in the marine environment as well as significant advances in the context of circular economy. The most effective mitigation measures and plastic debris removal technologies from the marine environment will also be highlighted.

NICOLAS KALOGERAKIS is Professor of Biochemical Engineering at the Technical University of Crete (Greece) where he has served as Vice-President of the University Council and as Department Head (twice). Prior to that he was a Professor at SUNY-Buffalo (USA) and at the University of Calgary (Canada). He holds a Diploma in Chemical Engineering from NTUA (Athens), an MEng from McGill University and a PhD from the University of Toronto. His area of expertise includes environmental biotechnology focusing on bioremediation and phytoremediation technologies for the restoration of contaminated sites; protection and restoration of the marine environment; novel oxygenation systems and wastewater treatment; and mathematical modeling of environmental processes. Currently his group is participating in several National projects and 4 EU-funded research projects (H2020) and he was the coordinator of the large FP7-project KILL*SPILL. Prof. Kalogerakis’ publication record includes five patents, one book, 188 papers in referred journals and more than 170 presentations at international conferences including several keynote and plenary presentations. He has >8100 citations with a H-index of 47 (Scopus). He has served as a member of the European Commission Environment Committee (2007-2011) and as Sherpa at the European Commission High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies (2013-2015).

2018-19 Events

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thermodynamics and Transport in Desalination Systems Engineering

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

200 College Street
Wallberg Building

The world’s renewable fresh water supply may be considered to be the difference between precipitation over land and evaporation; and this supply is essentially fixed while world population has risen sharply and the water demands of growing economies continue to rise. As a result, water scarcity is an increasing problem throughout the world, with water shortages impacting both rural and urban populations and with substantial environmental damage as a result of water diversions for human use.

Desalination has been deployed worldwide to expand the supply of freshwater, especially for coastal populations, and its use has increased rapidly, with roughly 90 million m3/day of capacity now installed. The cost and lifetime of plants has also improved steadily. But concerns remain about the energy consumption and costs of desalination. In this talk, we will discuss research directed at understanding the causes of energy inefficiency in various desalination processes and efforts to adapt concepts from thermal systems engineering to improve the design of both thermal and membrane desalination systems. Topics to be discussed include thermodynamic and heat and mass transfer phenomena in various desalination technologies, with examples drawn from reverse osmosis, humidification-dehumidification, forward osmosis, membrane distillation, and the remediation wastewater from oil and gas production. Prospects for renewable energy integration will also be considered.

JOHN LIENHARD is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water at MIT. During three decades on the MIT faculty,Lienhard’s research and educational efforts have focused on heat and mass transfer, water purification and desalination, and thermodynamics. Lienhard received his bachelors and masters degrees in thermal engineering at UCLA from the Chemical, Nuclear, and Thermal Engineering Department. He joined MIT immediately after completing his PhD in the Applied Mechanics and Engineering Science Department at UC SanDiego. Lienhard’s research on desalination has included humidification-dehumidification, membrane distillation, forward and reverse osmosis, nanofiltration, electrodialysis, management of high salinity brines, fouling, energy efficiency, and remediation of wastewater from oil/gas operations. Lienhard has directly supervised more than 85 graduate theses and postdoctoral associates, and he is the author of 200 peer-reviewed publications and three textbooks. In addition, he holds more than 40 US Patents and pending applications, many of which have been commercialized in the water industry. Lienhard is a recipient of the 2012 ASME Globalization Medal and the 2015 ASME Heat Transfer Memorial Award. Lienhard and his students have received thirteen best paper and poster awards for their desalination research over the past seven years.

University of Michigan

Can engineering controls shape the drinking water microbiome and reduce the risk of opportunistic infections?

Monday, November 12, 2018
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

40 St George Street
Bahen Centre

Biological treatment processes and particularly biofiltration have gained tremendous popularity in the drinking water field over the past decade. However, we do not yet understand how biofiltration, disinfection, and transport of treated water through distribution systems and building plumbing influence tap water and human microbiomes. Most microbes in biofilters mediate positive impacts through removal of contaminants, but others have the potential to cause disease. In high-income countries, the risk of waterborne infection is often due to exposure to opportunistic pathogens, such as Legionella pneumophila and nontuberculous mycobacteria. This presentation will show that these microbes, present in source water microbiomes, are only partially removed and sometimes are selected for by current treatment practices and therefore become integrated in the diverse microbial communities in drinking water. Waterborne infections by these microbes mainly affect immunocompromised individuals, a rapidly expanding subset of the population, and result primarily from inhalation of aerosols. These findings call for an increased understanding of how drinking water aerosols impact our respiratory tract microbiomes. We have begun to address this challenge by focusing on cystic fibrosis, a condition known to predispose individuals to polymicrobial respiratory tract infection. The presentation will conclude by discussing steps water quality engineers and drinking water utilities can take to reduce risk of opportunistic infections while maintaining drinking water treatment objectives.

LUTGARDE RASKIN is the Altarum/ERIM Russell O’Neal Professor of Environmental Engineering and one of four faculty members of the University of Michigan Environmental Biotechnology group. She is inspired by the complexity of the microbial world and the astonishing progress we have made in the field of microbial ecology over the past few decades. This progress continuously motivates her to rethink engineered systems so we can better harness the power of microorganisms to treat water and recover resources from waste stream.

Lutgarde strives to understand and improve various aspects of the engineered water cycle microbiome to improve human health using sustainable design approaches. Her research places particular focus on (i) water and energy recovery from waste streams and energy crops, and (ii) drinking water systems including biofiltration, disinfection, distribution and premise plumbing.

2017-18 Events