Take lead on wa­ter is­sues, UN panel urges Canada

Re­searchers pre­dict world­wide short­ages

Ottawa Citizen - - WORLD - BY CAR­MEN CHAI

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.

DANIEL BEREHULAK, GETTY IM­AGES

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.

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