Water and Business in Canada Part III: Water Technology & Innovation Gaining Stronger Ground
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
A major and often overlooked component of sustainable water management and the role business is technology. The assumption, at times, is that an innovative solution for water treatment and conservation is present, and since the market is in need, so the technology will be available. As dry parts of the world become drier, such as my homeland of Israel, technologies that recycle wastewater to drinking quality is imperative. While innovative water technology can help manage resources more efficiently, it cannot solve problems stemming from poor governance and lack of consumer awareness.
At the same time as the issue of leadership is still being debated, there is a definite need - globally and across many sectors - for more efficient, accessible ways to manage freshwater. Indeed, there is no denying that a new, fresh momentum for water technologies development has sprung up over the last decade in Canada, and specifically, Ontario. Like green energy, it harnesses innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that help build small businesses into bigger ones and, eventually, into a thriving industry.
Ontario's Water Opportunities and Conservation Act (2010) is a bold move by the provincial government to "make Ontario the North American leader in the development and sale of water conservation and treatment technologies." One of its key initiatives in terms of driving investment and growth in the Ontario water sector is the creation of the Water Technology Acceleration Partnership (WaterTAP), meant to support R&D and commercialization of technologies.
In May 2011, the provincial government hosted Ontario's Global Water Leadership Summit, a gathering of global and local water sector innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and venture capitalists, to engage on the topic of future water innovation. A post event report provides a summary of why Ontario is primed to take advantage of the sector's growth through investment. It cites the success stories of Canadian companies such as Trojan Technologies and ZENON Environmental (now part of GE) that began making their mark ten years ago.
Another major component to success is money and brainpower - both elements of a public-private partnership named The Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC), in development since 2007. With major investment by the Ontario and Federal governments, as well as companies such as IBM, which contributed $20 million, and eight universities, the sector is bound to realize substantial growth. One of the companies at the forefront of water sector investment firms is Toronto's XPV Capital. On its website, the company links its core business with the changing ways in which the world uses and manages water. This shift - currently seen as the price for water increases globally - creates investment opportunities.
2011 also included another high-profile event in Canada about the Global Water Crisis. The gathering by InterAction Council of Former Heads of State and Government, occurred in part to establish a new panel to drive leadership related to global water issues: "...international water leadership is virtually nonexistent," the retired leaders say. The panel will work to elevate the issue's political prominence in an effort to avert a looming "water crisis," reports the Council's online blog.
A post-event chairmen's report explains the need to combine government leadership and investment in technologies that will help alleviate projected water stress. "Government regulation can provide huge incentives for change. New laws can start the "ingenuity engine" and keep it running."
In Canada we are starting to see the potential for positive change when innovation, research and public policy work together.
Next week's Water & Business in Canada will explore water pricing and its effects: from infrastructure maintenance to stewardship.
 Government of Ontario: Ontario Water Opportunities Act - http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/environment/en/legislation/water_opportunities/index.htm
 Ontario's Global Water Leadership Summit: Post Summit Report - http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/medt/investinontario/en/Pages/OS_water_debrief.aspx
 Ontario Business Report: The Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC) - A major force in international water expertise http://ontariobusinessreport.com/en/green/articles/green_article_09.asp
 InterAction Council: Former Heads of Government: World Needs Water Leadership - http://bit.ly/zNsbJo
 InterAction Council: Chairmen's Report on the High-level Expert Group Meeting
"The Global Water Crisis: Addressing an Urgent Security Issue" - http://bit.ly/A3mYr5
Photo Credit: Legal technology expert Tomasz Stasiuk (Planet10tech)