by Kerry Freek
GLOBE-Net, July 5, 2012 - Water needs a
radical rethink, says Nicholas Parker, Chairman of the
Cleantech Group and of the Blue Economy Initiative.
"After two hundred years of managing water the same way, we've
gotten too comfortable," he says. "The future provokes us to think
about what this system means."
At the Canadian Water Summit on June 28, Parker cited
technology as an example of Canada moving forward. The company sees
waste as a renewable resource, extracting nutrients that generate
cost savings and revenues for waste water treatment plants.
The need for cleaner water could present some interesting
economic opportunities, says Parker, especially on an efficient,
affordable micro-scale for smaller communities.
Known for his work in the cleantech sector (in fact, his
research company introduced the term) and the private investment
and advisory business, Parker is Chair of the Blue Economy Initiative (BEI),
a project with a vision to position Canada as a global leader in
The Royal Bank of Canada, the Canadian
Water Network, and the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation founded
the Blue Economy Initiative in 2011.
"Our challenge is to explain water scarcity to Canadians, and
our opportunity is to service the planet," says Parker. The world
water market is currently valued at US$400 billion and projected to
reach $1 trillion by 2020.
He compares Canada's progress in this market to countries such
as the Netherlands, Israel and Singapore, all making a big splash
in the marketplace: "We tend to be a little slow in the emerging
green economy. The BEI hopes to change that."
Within the next decade, a third of the planet is going to be
living in areas that are water scarce. It's a reality that puts
Canada, with its relative abundance of water, in a good position to
export its management and technological expertise.
"We can't just pull up the drawbridge and say 'good luck,'" he
says. "That doesn't seem to fit in with our ethic as citizens. If
we're good stewards of the water we have, we can make things that
the world needs, and provide exportable excellence in our
innovative approaches and technologies. That's the essential
Parker (pictured left) says translating
water's value into raw economics is the first big challenge. BEI's
first report, Running
Through Our Fingers, tackles the question.
Authored by Brock University economists Steven Renzetti and
Diane Dupont and author Chris Wood, the 2011 paper reveals that we
don't have the information we need to know how much water
contributes to the economic value of different
What the research can quantify, however, would suggest that
water is responsible for a contribution of between CAD$7.8 and
$22.9 billion, a number that Parker says is "grossly
When the federal government undertook a similar inquiry in 1985,
economist Andrew Muller came up with an estimate of between $7.5
and $23 billion (equivalent to $15 to $44 billion in 2011 dollars).
Renzetti's results are about half the value when compared in 2011
dollars, numbers that are accredited to a deficit of available
"The good news is that water is extremely important to
everything we do. The bad news is that we don't have a clue how to
quantify its value," Parker says. "The report sets the stage for
the second part of our journey-how do we communicate water's value
in a global context?"
The second report is scheduled for publication by the end of
this summer. Parker sees the series as one part of what could
change the water dialogue, leading to better informed decisions and
"We can't move forward without good information," he says. "The
opportunity is there, but we must be well prepared and ready to
talk about new approaches."
Kerry Freek is the Editor of Water Canada.