Take lead on water issues, UN panel urges Canada
Researchers predict worldwide shortages
Canada, with its abundance of water and expertise in managing the valuable resource, will be called on to help other nations struggling to deal with frequent drought, flooding and water quality concerns in just decades, according to a panel of experts.
Demand for water in many countries will exceed supply by an estimated 40 per cent in 15 to 20 years and only one third of the world’s population will have half the water needed for life’s basics, global researchers have predicted.
They forecast that by 2020, a $1-trillion market will exist for technologies and plans to discover, manage, filter, disinfect and distribute water — a process that Canadians are leading.
“Climate change will affect all societies and ecosystems most profoundly through the medium of water but there is no other way to generalize the crises ahead. At unpredictable times, too much water will arrive in some places and too little in others,” said Zafar Adeel, chair of UN Water, which co-ordinates water-related efforts for 28 United Nations organizations.
“ There is a significant amount of knowledge and technologies that are available within Canada but they don’t seem to be visible at the international level,” he said.
Adeel is meeting with 300 scientists, policy-makers and economists from around the world in Ottawa this week to discuss a global approach to managing and protecting water at an event hosted by the Canadian Water Network, a Waterloo, Ont.-based organization that works on resolving water conflicts.
Canadian provinces have already handled a broad range of issues with water, such as severe flooding and drought, while First Nations communities and small towns have worked on improving water quality, which is why the country is in a strong position to share its wisdom with other nations, said Bernadette Conant, CWN executive director.
Catastrophic floods — such as those that occurred recently in Pakistan and Australia — which usually happen every century, can now be expected every 20 years, she warned.
Communities in northern B.C. have already picked themselves up from these floods three times in the last two decades, Canadian researchers say.
“Canada has been the birthplace of world-changing water treatment technology, massive cleanups and changing regulations. We can tackle the problem,” she said.
The challenges Canadian communities have encountered are similar to what Third World countries face, so our approach is “very relevant” despite differences in resources, Adeel said.
He said that the Arab Countries Water Utilities Association (ACWUA), which represents 19 Middle Eastern countries has already considered Canadian help to improve water management and policy.
Canada’s freshwater lakes and rivers roughly equal the area of Spain, Germany and Belgium combined, which is about nine per cent of the global supply.
But only one per cent of its supply is renewed by precipitation, so Canadian officials also have to enforce measures to prevent water scarcity, Conant said.
Some areas of Western Canada already face water shortages, which will migrate to the East because of “insufficient” planning. Other regions will face worsening floods.
Conant said it is critical that the country does not remain complacent because it holds a large portion of the world’s water supply.
A panel of experts predicts that in just decades, Canada will be asked to help other nations struggling to deal with frequent drought, flooding and water quality concerns.