Denise Di Santo, B.Sc., B.Ed., MSc.

Denise Di Santo joined Alberta WaterSMART as a Project Specialist in 2015. She is a natural resources specialist, with training and experience in water resources planning, policy development and watershed management. After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from the University of Calgary, she began her career in the energy sector in oil and gas exploration. Following her passion for solving issues pertaining to water resources, Denise completed her Master of Science degree in Renewable Natural Resources, Watershed Management at The University of Arizona. Denise is also a professional educator, having developed and taught environmental science courses at three universities in Canada and the United States, as well as teaching related disciplines at the secondary education level. A strategic, systems thinker, Denise brings a unique skill set that blends policy development experience and domain knowledge of watersheds and natural resource management to the team. 

Fortunate to have grown up near the Rocky Mountains her early experiences backpacking and skiing inspired her to take the path toward a watershed management career. Her research includes a cross-comparative analysis of groundwater contamination, including a study of public agencies’ community involvement strategies in remediation, as well as community impact assessment work in rural Alberta. Denise’s training also includes stormwater management, with certification in Low Impact Development (LID) from Washington State University; experience in assessing effectiveness of stormwater management technologies, green infrastructure project management, groundwater and source water protection policy development, and program planning follow.

She is experienced in coordinating basin-wide, multi-stakeholder actions in the implementation of watershed restoration and salmon recovery plans, including support of complex site scale projects. Denise enjoys working collaboratively to identify and promote innovative solutions, from stormwater management and LID implementation, to working in flood recovery and river and estuary restoration. As part of a project team, she recently worked to complete a watershed hydrology protection plan under a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The Plan was developed for a watershed that is now designated a Resilient Landscape by the United States government, and its development approach is intended to serve as a template for other watersheds in the nation to follow.

Along with hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, and climate change adaptation, Denise’s interests include building social relationships for stakeholder collaboration to develop policy and practices for sustainable watershed and water resources management. She sees collaboration and a multidisciplinary approach as crucial in creating efficacy in outcomes and resolving natural resource management challenges.

Denise currently sits on the Bow River Basin Council’s Legislative and Policy Committee, and is an active Board member of the Elbow River Watershed Partnership and their Communications Committee. Denise is thrilled to be working with the team at Alberta WaterSMART as a contributor to projects that inform sound water management decisions and identify pathways to ensure functioning, resilient watersheds are part of our future.