Water researchers at Brock University have received federal funds to set-up a research network to look at the economic, political and social aspects of water-related issues. The “Water Economics, policy and governance network” is made up of 21 internationally recognized researchers, mostly from Canada, and about 35 partner organizations, including Water Canada magazine.
“The people we have involved in this network are some of the all-stars of Canadian water researchers,” says Steve Renzetti, a water economist who is leading the “Water Economics, policy and governance network” project, which received a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) valued at more than $2.3-million.
Water economists look closely at the two-way relationship of water: the impact of the economy on water and how water use contributes to the economy. They examine the economic impact and value of water in all of its social dimensions.
“We’re very fortunate to have as much water as we do in Canada,” says Renzetti. “However, our network is thinking about, anticipating and trying to set up governance models to avoid the water problems that other countries are facing right now.”
“We’re not getting any more supply,” he says. “In fact, if anything, climate change says we’re getting less reliable supplies in the future, but demands are rising.”
According to Renzetti, the constant supply and rising demand for water in Canada and around the world creates the potential for conflict.
“Most of the water issues in Canada are local,” he says. “You go to almost every province and you can find challenges related to water.”
There are threats to water quality on the Grand River in Ontario. There are potential dangers to groundwater quality in Quebec because of fracking and agriculture. In Alberta there are concerns around not enough water and too many demands such as irrigation, recreation and growing cities. And in British Columbia there are conflicts between resource extraction needs and rural communities’, First Nations’ and in-stream flow demands for water.
“The whole point of the exercise is to bring together researchers and partner organizations,” says Renzetti. “We’re looking to put in place the governance, decision-making and data collection supports to help governance, so that governments, citizen groups and community decision-makers ensure that all people’s voices are heard and that we allocate water as best we can in Canada.”