Arrell Scholar Alumna, Engineering
Groundwater is the water in underground spaces between soil, sand, and rock, and it moves through the earth through larger spaces called aquifers.Back to Our Experts
“Canadians often take water for granted, but it is important that we remember our responsibility to take care of it. I hope to ensure stewardship of groundwater through my research so that people can continue to rely on it without worry.”
Research Interests and Future Goals
Growing up in Woodstock, Ontario, Kathleen Johnson became particularly interested in groundwater because of the community’s heavy reliance on it in their everyday lives. Groundwater research is a relatively new field, only having gained interest from the scientific community in the past 40 years. People are now recognizing that groundwater must be protected like other sources and researchers are interested in developing better, more sustainable approaches to groundwater management to ensure it is preserved. As part of the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research team, Kathleen worked to understand how water flows through the unique fractured bedrock aquifer that ends up in people’s taps and industrial food processing plants in Guelph. This information helped her and her team better understand how the aquifer is affected by contamination, and this can influence policy and decision making to improve water quality in the future. Her specific research topic was inspired by an inquiry following the E. coli outbreak tragedy in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000 which resulted in more than 2,000 cases of gastroenteritis and 6 deaths. While the main contamination source was linked to a cattle farm, the severity of the outbreak was due to policy shortcomings for dealing with this type of public health concern. Kathleen recognized the need for more research on this topic to avoid future shutdowns and adopt a more proactive approach to dealing with contamination. On a career level, her main goal is to influence industry decision making and community outreach to shape water policy, especially for rural water well owners and Indigenous communities.
Why Arrell Food Institute
Kathleen recognized the Arrell Food Institute for providing her with exceptional learning experiences and opportunities which allowed her to pursue her passion for improving water and food systems. Kathleen graduated with a MASc in Water Resources Engineering in 2020 and is currently working with the City of London as an Engineer-in-Training. As part of her current role, she supports the City of London in their strategic focus area of “Building a Sustainable City”.