Our Actions and Goals

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
6. Clean Water and Sanitation

Our goals in action

Research and innovation

[Line drawing of rain droplets]

Queen’s actively promotes conscious water usage on campus, and in the wider community.

World-class research improving water quality

Queen’s Drinking Water Quality Group focused on researching the factors and mechanisms that lead to poor water quality in drinking water systems and developing innovative technologies and best practices to protect drinking water in Canadian systems. Their research facilities include the Drinking Water Distribution Lab, a unique research facility in North America located at Queen's that can replicate the full hydraulic, physico-chemical, and microbiological conditions of real distributions systems in a fully-controlled environment, and the Environmental Engineering Laboratories in Queen's Mitchell Hall, which comprises 10,000 square feet of state-of-the-art water research space and technology.

[Dr. Ryan Mulligan examines a piece of equipment at the Queen’s University Coastal Engineering Research Lab.]

Protecting the planet

The Vega Medal, sometimes referred to as equivalent to a "Nobel Prize in Geography," is bestowed by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on behalf of the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography. Queen's researcher John Smol was this year's recipient of the lifetime recognition as the most prolific scientist regarding northern lake systems. As a paleolimnologist and foremost expert in the study of long-term global environmental changes to lakes and rivers, Dr. Smol as advanced our understanding of the impacts of pressing environmental issues, such as lake eutrophication, acidification, contaminant transport, fisheries management, and climate change with a special focus on the Arctic.

Teaching and student life

[Dr. Diane Orihel instructs a group of graduate students while collecting samples in Lake Ontario.]

Our local lakes

Diane Orihel, Queen's National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology, is the co-lead of the pELAstic project, a globally unique large-scale study funded through NSERC's Plastic Science for a Cleaner Future program. Scientists are conducting experiments at multiple scales – from mesocosm to whole lakes – to understand the fate and ecological effects of microplastics in freshwaters. Dr. Orihel and her students are also involved in the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup network, a regional effort to address the around 10 million kilograms of plastic flowing into the Great Lakes.

Community impact

Water management educational opportunities

Understanding the need to engage communities in environmental strategies, Queen’s runs ongoing outreach programs for local communities to learn about effective water management. The Beaty Water Research Centre (BWRC) is an interdisciplinary research and education centre that focuses on water governance, use, resources, and quality, and offers programs designed to motivate students and the public to become water stewards in their homes, classrooms, and communities. In addition to their state-of-the-art facility on Queen's campus in Kingston, researchers with BWRC have field facilities located near Perth and Tamworth in Ontario and on Melville Island in Nunavut.

[A test tube containing a concentration of Nitrate ions that has crystallized and separated. ]

Queen's Art of Research Submission: Old Fashioned Alchemy by Alan Chang, MSc Student (Civil Engineering), Beaty Water Research Centre, Queen's University

As a satellite facility of the Queen’s University Biological Station, the Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre offers curriculum-based programs year-round that encourage local high school students to explore and measure local biodiversity through field-based scientific investigation. In 2023, in collaboration with local Indigenous knowledge holders, teachers, and Queen's STEM faculty, Elbow Lake launched the Queen's University Indigenous Land-based Learning STEM (QUILLS) program. A series of five STEM Learning Bundles tailored to grades 7-10, QUILLS aligns with Ontario science curriculum outcomes to teach students about the biodiversity crisis, global climate change, and traditional Indigenous knowledge systems.

[A group of students collect samples in the water near Queen’s University Biological Station.]

Global reach

Inspiring future leaders in water sustainability

LEADERS-CREATE is an NSERC-funded graduate program at Queen's to educate future leaders in water and watershed sustainability. Students engage with leading experts and researchers with an interdisciplinary focus on knowledge mobilization and training related to policy, risk assessment, and integrated management of watersheds.

Understanding sanitation inequalities

Safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are critical for human development, yet women and girls are disproportionally affected by inadequate WASH services. The Empowerment in WASH Index (EWI) co-developed by Queen's researcher Dr. Elijah Bisung measures water, sanitation, and hygiene WASH-related interventions and aims to solve gender disparities in access to these basic needs. This pragmatic survey-based tool is currently being developed and piloted in different cultural settings around the globe.

Administration and operations

[Line drawing of a faucet and the number 3,084]

The CAPIt completed 1,147 toilet retrofits, 61 urinal retrofits, 353 shower head replacements, and installed 1,523 faucet moderators throughout campus resulting in a water reduction use of 185,000 m3.

Water-conscious building standards and policies

The Queen’s Conservation and Demand Management Plan applies building standards and policies to minimize water use, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Our Building Design Standards also include LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) water targets. Our Custodial Services have also gone green, and now exclusively use certified green cleaning products and reusable microfiber cloths.

[A photo of a Queen's Custodial Services staff member using green cleaning products in Mitchell Hall]

Queen's is a bottled water free campus

Queen's University has had a campus-wide ban on bottled water sales and distribution for almost a decade. Instead, we have more than 200 drinking fountains and free bottle-fill stations across our campus, which students can locate using an online map.

Water management

Queen's wastewater is treated by Utilities Kingston's state-of-the-art Ravensview treatment facility which uses biogas collection, allowing the plant to partially power itself from the effluent it receives. Additionally, Queen's internal policies reflect local governance plans and regulations that have been designed to protect local watershed, including through training and support to eliminate contaminants disposal in the municipal sewer and the coordination of hazardous material pickup across campus.