Roy Brouwer, a professor at the University of Waterloo and executive director of the Water Institute, is leading a new project called “Valuing Canada’s Water Resources and Aquatic Ecosystem Services.”

According to the Water Institute, this project is the largest co-ordinated water valuation research program in Canada. It aims to develop, test, and apply reliable and robust state-of-the-art valuation methods and techniques for aquatic ecosystem services in different water policy contexts across the Canadian landscape.

The central objective is to advance our understanding of the socio-economic value of water in Canada by developing best practice guidelines, providing new empirical evidence, and advancing new policy-relevant decision-support tools.

“The lack of economic evidence and decision-making tools in Canada undermines our ability to efficiently and sustainably manage water resources,” said Brouwer. “In this context, this project aims to answer three closely related questions, which can be summarized as the what?, why? and how? of economic valuation of surface and groundwater resources in Canada.”

Water resources provide goods and services that benefit various water users in local, regional, and national economies and societies. These goods and services refer to water as a source for the production of drinking water, food or energy, and water as a sink for wastewater after water has been used for manufacturing or household consumption.

Some of these goods and services are traded in economic markets and can be valued directly in economic terms based on their market prices, such as fish or drinking water. Others are seemingly provided free of charge, such as water’s natural pollution absorption capacity or aesthetic landscape views. These latter non-market values and benefits are typically ignored in policy and decision-making due to the absence of a price.

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The project hopes to develop state-of-the-art valuation guidelines for water practitioners to:

  • Better inform sustainable water policy and decision-making.
  • Test the guidelines in representative case studies across Canada, focusing on investment decisions in a wide variety of water quality management contexts.
  • Make the connection of the economic valuation of aquatic ecosystem services to available water quality monitoring data and policy-relevant biophysical indicators.
  • Set up a geo-referenced national data and information system for the socio-economic values of relevant aquatic ecosystem services across Canada.

More information about the project is available here.

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