Smith, Dr. Daniel

2009 Finalist: Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Science

Research Protects Public Health By Improving Water Quality

During the 40 years he has been an environmental engineer Dr. Daniel W. Smith has used all of his multi-disciplinary talents to protect public and environmental health through his work with the most fundamental of materials—water.

“Water is essential to all living things and to the development of societies,” Dr. Smith says. “Public and environmental health engineering involves chemistry, math, physics, biology, law, and health issues, all of which I enjoy. It seemed like a place where someone could have a meaningful impact.”

Solving Complex Problems

Throughout his distinguished career Dr. Smith has collaborated with medical scientists, microbiologists, immunologists, chemists, nanotechnologists, and ecologists to find solutions to complex environmental problems. All of the work is driven by his passion about water quality and public and environmental health protection.

His seminal work, Cold Regions Utilities Monograph, is a 900-page manual that addresses the design and construction of water and sewer systems in cold climates. Now in its third edition, it is an essential text used by water and wastewater professionals and governments dealing with cold environments. The result of this publication and Dr. Smith’s continuing research into water systems has significantly improved public health protection through the delivery of safe drinking water and the removal of wastes in communities and industries in cold climates.

Improving Water Systems

Dr. Smith’s research on the use of ozone and advanced oxidation processes for treating drinking water and wastewater is renowned for the development of technology to remove disease-causing agents. “I have visited virtually all of the First Nations communities and the major communities in Alberta to improve water and waste water systems,” he says. “I use my visits, evaluations, and analyses to drive research into treatment processes for the future. I want to stay ahead of the guidelines and regulations in terms of public health and environmental protection.”

“All of this is extremely important to the maintenance and improvement of life,” says the eminent scientist and the first environmental engineer to be elected to The Royal Society of Canada. An emerging concern Dr. Smith is researching is the contamination of our water by pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and personal care products. “How we deal with them will have a major impact on all living things,” he says.

Dr. Smith says one of the most important aspects of his career is being an educator. A professor emeritus and cross-appointed to the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, Dr. Smith is co-creator of the undergraduate degree program in environmental engineering. He has graduated more than 140 M.SC. and PhD students who hold positions in academia and industry across Canada and the world. He currently works as an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary.

“First and foremost I derive satisfaction from my students,” Dr. Smith says. “They will carry on the principles I work and live by. That’s my legacy.”