Water and Business in Canada Part V: World Water Day's Food-Water Nexus, an Important Issue for Canadian Companies
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
March 22nd marks United Nations World Water Day - a global celebration and awareness raising campaign now in its 20th year. This year's theme is "Water and Food Security": to grow food we need a secure supply of water. "We also need to produce more food using less water, reduce food wastage and losses, and move towards more sustainable diets," reads the official brochure from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) . Producing more while using less water is the Canadian food and beverage processing industry's biggest area for potential improvement. While there have been technology and behaviour-related advancements, water remains a significant risk to the sector, as both demand and the cost of water increases regularly.
While Canada is blessed with far greater water abundance than most countries around the world, growing population intensity and industrial activity is creating stress on local resources. Growing demand locally or from international markets affect Canadian waters that are relied upon to help grow and process foods. Since most factories in the food-processing sector rely on municipal water delivery, there is an increased capacity demand on infrastructure leading to rising bills. Among natural resources subsectors, food manufacturing is charged the highest rates for both water and wastewater, signalling the need for better water efficiencies to secure future profitability. 
Why is this important? In Ontario, the Food Processing Sector is the second largest manufacturing industry in the province, with sales of over $30 billion in 2010. According to a recent report by The Bloom Centre for Sustainability, "Water is emerging as one of the most pressing business risks facing Ontario Food Processing Sector" . In a World Water Day press release by Canada's National Brewers, the importance of water for beer producers is explained: "...water is beer's primary ingredient. Without clean water, Canada's brewers wouldn't be able to continue supplying Canadians with their signature products." . According to the release, the industry has reduced its water use in brewing by over 50% over the last two decades.
Aside from the use of water as an ingredient in products, it is important to understand the total footprint of foods and beverages. It takes water to grow ingredients, including in meat production. One kg of wheat requires about 1500 litres of water, but it takes 10 times more to produce the equivalent amount in beef. Globally, the more consumers demand high protein diet - linked to the growth of middle class population in the developing world - the more water is required to raise cows, chickens and hogs. Water is also used for cooling, blending, washing and transporting among many other functions in food processing. Each food and beverage product has a complex water footprint. Hence the nexus between what we eat and how much water is required.
According to economic forecasts in "Charting a Course", a report on the water use of natural resources sectors in Canada, food manufacturing is expected to grow by 39% by 2030 in total sales. Increased economic activity will result in increase of water intake.  Projected economic growth puts an emphasis on the need to drive efficiencies in this sector. Proposed solutions to help mobilize change in a quicker, more efficient way, most often include a multi-stakeholder approach that involves governments, industry, academia and expert organizations.
For World Water Day, an expert panel will discuss achieving sustainable water resource management in the food and beverage industry. Representing Steam Whistle Brewing, Nestlé Waters Canada, WWF-Canada, The Bloom Centre for Sustainability and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, this diverse panel will explore some of the successes and challenges faced by industry. The final part of this series will provide readers with event proceedings.
This is Part V of a series about Canada's water resources as it relates to people and business, leading up to UN-Water World Water Day, March 22nd.
Part I: Building A Case For Deeper Commitment
Part II: Managing Water Use in the Supply Chain
Part III: Water Technology & Innovation Gaining Stronger Ground
Part IV: How to Price Blue Gold? More Dollars Makes More Sense
 UN FAO: World Water Day 2012 Official Brochure http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/downloads/WWD2012_BROCHURE_EN.pdf
 National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE): Charting a Course - Sustainable Water Use by Canada's Natural Resource Sectors
 The Bloom Centre for Sustainability: Driving Adoption of Sustainable Water Solution in the Ontario Food Processing Sector. http://www.bloomcentre.com/bloom-experience.html
 Brian Zeiler-Kligman, Canada's National Brewers: World Water Day 2012: Water Stewardship Key to Sustainable Food Production
 NRTEE: Charting a Course - Sustainable Water Use by Canada's Natural Resource Sectors
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Canada's National Brewers