What started as a small group of New Brunswick researchers with a mandate to manage and protect rivers, estuaries and waterways is now celebrating 15 years of progress.  

The Canadian Rivers Institute was originally founded by four scientists, but now has a presence across the country and beyond. 

"We've grown so much and we've grown in such a positive way," said Allen Curry, one of the institute's founding researchers and one of the country's leading authorities on water.

"It will really be quite interesting to see where we are in another 15 years." 

Mactaquac dam

The research institute is currently working with NB Power on the future of the Mactaquac Dam. (CBC)

The Canadian Rivers Institute was founded at the University of New Brunswick in 2001 by Curry, Rick Cunjak, Deborah MacLatchy and Kelly Munkittrick.

It now boasts 19 science directors, 81 research associates, 88 students and 30 research staff, according to a statement from Anne Levesque the group's spokesperson.

Curry credits the institute's early success to the support from the University of New Brunswick and says growing issues related to water will ensure the group continues to play a role in Canadian waterway research in the future.

"Even though we're in an oil crisis and we talk about climate, the reality is it will be water," said Curry.

"Water will be the next major issue that we are going to face here, in the world."

He said the institute has tried to get people to think more about the water and take the issue more seriously.

Institute involved in projects worldwide 

The group manages dozens of rivers and waterways in several countries and provinces, including the Arctic and the Alberta oil sands.

The institute also collaborates with projects in Sri Lanka, Chili, New Zealand, Mexico and Italy.

Michael van den Heuvel , the institute's science director, says the work the institute is doing will only become more important in the next 15 years.

"In the next century, water is going to be the issue on the planet," said van den Heuvel.

"You know we've made a lot of mistakes in the past. We don't want to repeat them, so we need to know how to monitor things so we can prioritize what needs to be fixed and what doesn't need to be fixed."

The largest project the group is currently working on — "the behemoth" as van den Heuvel refers to it — is the Mactaquac Dam project.

The province's largest hydro-electric generating station will need to be refurbished, torn down or decommissioned in the near future.