Home Elucidating water quality controls across scales

    Elucidating water quality controls across scales

    The Ecohydrology Research Group (ERG) was established in 2011 at the University of Waterloo with funding from the Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) programme.

    The group is led by Philippe Van Cappellen and focuses on advancing the predictive understanding of the natural and human determinants of water quality. Our overarching goal is to enhance the depth and rigour with which risks to water security can be assessed under current and anticipated future stressors, including climate variability and land use changes.

    Ecohydrology: Water quality for the planet

    ERG’s activities span a huge range of spatial and temporal scales, from fundamental, molecular-level studies of the processes regulating the transformations of nutrients and contaminants in aquatic environments, via the acquisition of field observations and remote sensing data, to model simulations of entire river basins, lentic systems and coastal marine areas. ERG is therefore uniquely positioned to support the evidence-based management of water quality and water-dependent natural resources in a changing global environment.

    The collaborative research program in ecohydrology specifically aims to:

    • identify and quantitatively describe the biogeochemical processes that control the chemical forms, reactivity and bioavailability of nutrient elements and contaminants in aquatic environments;
    • incorporate these processes in coupled hydrology-biogeochemistry models that simulate the fate and transport of nutrients and contaminants along the hydrological cycle;
    • model the effects of anthropogenic pressures on water quality and ecological functions, from the scale of local ecosystems to that of entire drainage basins and their receiving water bodies;
    • evaluate the vulnerability of water quality and ecosystem services to changes in land use, water consumption, conservation practices and regional climate; and
    • inform risk-based management strategies for water resources and aquatic ecosystems.

    water quality

    Ecohydrology: Water quality for the community

    Van Cappellen brings a longstanding interdisciplinary and international experience to the program, and ERG’s team is fully committed to building new bridges between the scientific fields of hydrology, geology, geochemistry and ecology. ERG actively engages in various school-level and public outreach initiatives. These include a water cycle and water quality teaching kit called ‘It’s Hydro-logical’ for the Let’s Talk Science program and the annual World Wetlands Day Public Lecture in Waterloo. ERG members also participate in the Children’s Ground Water Festival, the All Science Challenge  and the Annual Science Open House, which all feature stimulating question-and-answer sessions and hands-on science activities to inspire school age children.


    • Environmental chemistry, biogeochemistry and geomicrobiology;
    • Environmental sensors, remote sensing and smart monitoring systems;
    • Reactive transport modelling of carbon, nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, silicon, sulfur, iron), metals and metalloids in soils, aquifers, rivers, lakes and coastal environments; and
    • Integrated water management science and decision-support.

    Partner Articles

    Partner Special Reports

    Partner eBooks

    Integrating environmental water research across scales and disciplines

    Integrating environmental water research across scales and disciplines

    Ecohydrology Research Group’s new eBook explores its ongoing multidisciplinary environmental water research activities. Water is a valuable natural resource, and access to clean fresh water...
    international research

    International research for the wiser use of water

    Since 2011 an international research team of more than 45 scientists, technicians and students has been running experiments from the Canada-based lab and international...