Dispatches from Ontario: Water Is the Next Big Environmental Issue

by Antonio Pasolini on May 17, 2011

Glen Murray addresses the audience in Toronto. Photo: Ontario Innovation

The Ontario Global Water Leadership Summit opened this morning in Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre to a large audience that converged to discuss the challenges of developing and implementing water technologies, related economic opportunities and its nexus with other areas such as renewable energy, food and the ‘virtual water’, a term that is destined to become common parlance in the near future.

“As the 20th century was dominated by oil, carbon emissions became a major issue at the end of that period”, said Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation in his address to the public at the conference. “Water is the next big issue”, he said. “It will be the dominant force in the 21st century.”

Water is embedded in every human activity and it’s becoming scarce. It is predicted that one in three people will not have proper access to water in the next 20 years. Despite all that, there has been very little innovation over the last 40 years, said Booky Oren, CEO Global Water Technologies, based in Israel. He contrasted the conservativeness of the water industry with the rapid advances made by communications and IT during the same period.

But that seems to be about the change as the huge interest attracted by the Ontario summit seems to testify, a fact that panel discussion repeatedly reiterated, pointing to innovation as a driving force behind the shift. Thanks to the remarkable energy/water nexus, this booming new industry, which is expected to move $22 trillion over the next few years on a global scale, will inevitably drive more innovation and application in the alternative energy sector.

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