World Water Day 2023 – Accelerating Change

On March 22 we celebrated World Water Day – Accelerating Change, by hosting a half day, hybrid (virtual and in-person) event, with an introduction by Dr. Ferdinando Manna, followed by talks from three guest speakers. 

World Water Day 2023 Introduction by Dr. Ferdinando Manna from the School of Engineering, University of Guelph.

Dr. John Spoelstra, a Research Scientist from Environment and Climate Change Canada, started us off with a presentation on how artificial sweeteners can be used to track wastewater. 

Dr. Bassim Abbassi, the Director of Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre, followed up with a presentation on phosphate removal in decentralized and onsite wastewater treatment systems. 

Samantha Mehltretter, a PhD candidate from the School of Engineering, wrapped up our event with a presentation on respectful braiding of indigenous and western knowledge systems for freshwater ecosystem restoration. If you would like to learn more about her presentation and research you can checkout the full report here or connect with Samantha at and Dr. Andrea Bradford at

The topics were diverse, and included something for everyone. They reflected on the broad range in which groundwater influences all of us, every day, in many (often unnoticed and underappreciated) ways. These stimulating talks highlighted some of ways we can accelerate change: 

  1. Eat local and support your community
  1. Reduce your water consumption 
  1. Be curious and know where your water comes from 
  1. Protect nature, plant a tree or garden using native species 
  1. Fix your leaky pipes and empty full septic tanks 
  1. Stop polluting and be mindful about what you are putting down the drain
  1. Clean up local rivers, wetlands and beaches  

In addition to these presentations, we had some student posters displayed throughout the atrium, which provided opportunities for fruitful and engaging discussions. 

We had a great turnout, with passers-by stopping in and a virtual audience who tuned in locally and globally, including listeners from Ukraine and Sweden. 

The event was insightful, thought provoking and served as a reminder of the roles each of us play in making a difference, to protect and conserve our groundwater.  

Thank you to our speakers for their time and knowledge sharing, and to everyone who attended in person and on-line. We look forward to seeing you all again next year! 

If you want to learn more about the history of World Water Day, including the story of the Hummingbird and more ways you can help out, we encourage you to check out the UN World Water Day

“‘One day in the forest, a fire broke out. 
All the animals ran for their lives. 
They stood at the edge of the blaze, looking at the flames in terror and sadness. 
Up above their heads, a hummingbird was flying back and forth to the fire, over and over again. 
The bigger animals asked the hummingbird what she was doing. 
“I am flying to the lake to get water to help put out the fire.” 
The animals laughed at her and said, “You can’t put out this fire!” 
The hummingbird replied, “I’m doing what I can.”’