Advancing Canadian Water Assets (ACWA)

University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
What the facility does

Supports research and development, knowledge transfer, de-risking and piloting of water treatment technology.

Areas of expertise

Advancing Canadian Water Assets’ (ACWA) goal is to help develop wastewater treatment technologies that will remove existing and emerging contaminants to improve ecosystem and human health. ACWA's infrastructure is embedded within the City of Calgary’s Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment facility and includes advanced wastewater treatment processes and 12 experimental streams that can be dosed with various constituents or municipal effluents. Together, we use these facilities to demonstrate advanced treatment techniques and the impact of the resultant effluent on the environment.

ACWA's onsite laboratory has state-of-the-art facilities to quantify contaminant residues, identify and culture cells, determine water-borne pathogens and examine gene expression in model organisms. Additional laboratories (microbiology, aquatic and stable isotope) on the University of Calgary campus complement and support ACWA's research program. The first facility of its kind, the ACWA research facility bridges the gap between bench and pilot-scale research laboratories, and applications in full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plants.

ACWA’s themes: Water reuse/ recycling , receiving environment and mesocosm studies, wastewater based monitoring, research in antimicrobial resistance to inform human and health policy, sensor development and demonstration.

The ACWA research facility enables research that cannot be done anywhere else in the world. Current lab-sized facilities cannot realistically replicate actual field situations. Municipal treatment plants around the world are not suited to intensive research programs – particularly if the experiments involve contaminants harmful to people and the environment. We expect that researchers and city planners from around the world will visit Calgary to learn from the system and test their own thinking as they develop solutions for their own unique challenges.

Research services
  • Prototype testing and evaluation
  • Analytical chemistry service
  • Bioassays
  • Environmental assessment of treatment technologies
  • Receiving environment and mesocosm studies
  • Analytical method development
Sectors of application
  • Agriculture, animal science and food
  • Clean technology
  • Defence and security industries
  • Environmental technologies and related services
  • Life sciences, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment
Specialized labEquipmentFunction
ACWA Pine Creek Analytical LabQuantitative time-of-flight liquid chromarography-mass spectrometerIdentification of contaminants in wastewater
 Triple quadruple liquid chromatography mass spectrometerIdentification of contaminant in wastewater
 High-performance liquid chromatographyIdentification of contaminant in wastewater
 Inductive coupled plasma – mass spectrometer (ICPMS)Identification of contaminant in wastewater
 Ion chromatographIdentification of contaminant in wastewater
 Gas chromatograph with flame ionization detector (GC-FID)Identification of contaminant in wastewater
 Gas chromatograph – mass spectrometerIdentification of contaminant in wastewater
 Total organic carbon analyzer (TOC)Used to measure water quality
 Discrete analyzerRapid assessment of contaminants and nutrients in water
 Biological oxygen demand incubatorBOD measurements
 Chemical oxygen demand incubatorCOD measurements
ACWA Microbiology labNextSeq 500 Desktop SequencerDNA sequencing
 Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactionAmplification and quantification of target DNA sequences
 Epifluoresence microscopeVisualization and quantification of cellular and molecular targets
ACWA Isotope LabCarbon-specific isotope ratio mass spectrometersTracing of the fate and determining the conversion of carbon during treatment
 Nitrogen-specific isotope ratio mass spectrometersTracing of the fate and determining the conversion of nitrogen during treatment
ACWA Aquatic LabAquatic flow-thru systems ( 8)Experimental aquatic toxicology testing with cold and warm water species
 Aquatic recirculating systems ( 5) 
 Mass embryo production systemSemi-automated Zebrafish embryo collection system
 Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactionAmplification and quantification of target DNA sequences
 Digital polymerase chain reactionAmplification of DNA sequences using molecular counting
 Multi-mode micro-plate readerBioassay analysis using fluorescence, absorption and luminescence
  • Japan Sewage Works
  • LM Wastewater Solutions
  • CEC Analytics Ltd.
The University of Calgary research facility opens at city's wastewater treatment plant.