As Canadians, we tend to take water for granted.  We are fortunate as a nation to enjoy a ready supply of the resource at pennies a glass.  It is the fact that water is so accessible and inexpensive that we have taken advantage of it, with little thought to the future consequences of how we use or impact it.  

Stresses resulting from a growing and economically maturing world have become increasingly apparent and the management of water is clearly a major global issue.  The question of how we will manage water in Canada going forward is critical as the choices will either put our systems—including ecosystems, public infrastructure, food production and renewable energy alternatives—at extreme risk, or showcase Canada as a global leader.  We have the potential to excel as water stewards and realize economic benefits as a result if we take a proactive, adaptive and resilient approach to water management.

“Canada’s strength lies in its knowledge and capacity for addressing water management issues.”

Mitigating risk

The catastrophic Alberta floods in June, coupled with July’s flash floods in Toronto provide a poignant example of the significant economic risks associated with water.  They are now on record as two of the costliest natural disasters both provincially and federally.  A short two hours of rain in Toronto resulted in $850 million in insured property damages; a number that doesn’t include business losses or municipal cleanup costs.

The June floods that ravaged Alberta caused an economic loss estimated at $5.3 billion.  Insurance companies took sizeable losses related to the unpredictable nature of these floods.  Uninsured costs are more difficult to calculate. Overland flood coverage is not offered to homeowners in Canada and most flood losses are not covered by traditional insurance policies.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then the flip side of these challenges and risks is enormous opportunity.  The water solutions sector in Canada—part of the blue economy—has a strong base to work from; Canada’s strength lies in its knowledge and capacity for addressing water management issues.

We must manage according to the new norm—anticipating and recognizing the inevitability of increased severe weather events—and acknowledge the need to support systems that are economically, socially and environmentally viable in order to succeed.  This requires a paradigm shift in water management; one that recognizes that the most efficient and economic solutions will adopt a proactive, adaptive and resilient approach to water management.

Securing the future

The ability to manage water well is an exportable expertise as are the technologies that are developed as a result. Export and international exchange involving this expertise not only yields direct economic benefit, but strengthens our capacity for environmental stewardship to be reinforced at home.  

Through the Blue Economy Initiative we and other water-focused organizations look to raise awareness of the huge economic value, risks, and opportunities related to water that demonstrate how this kind of management approach can lead to Canada’s water prosperity.

We encourage Canadians to look to the future as we discuss water management, conservation, public infrastructure, food production and renewable energy alternatives as they relate to strengthening Canada’s blue economy.