St Catherines Standard: Brock leading research on water issues in Niagara

Water is an asset and, just like finances, its long-term value and potential problems need to be monitored.

That’s the focus behind Liquid Assets, a research study being done by Brock University at the request of the Niagara Region’s Water Smart program.

The goal is to assess Niagara’s water supply and demand and to answer three main questions: How does water impact the region? Who does what when it comes to regulation and water quality monitoring? And what are the water issues Niagara will be facing in the future?

“There are hundreds of studies in the U.S. and dozens in Canada that look at water as an economic asset, but we couldn’t find any studies that specifically talked about Niagara,” said Steven Renzetti, a professor with Brock’s Department of Economics who is heading up the study through the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. “Niagara is a blue economy – all of our sectors rely on good, clean water.”

Katelyn Vaughan, the project manager for the region’s Niagara Water Strategy, said Brock is being paid $60,000 to complete the research, which will be compiled into a report expected to be released in early 2013.

“Through this report, we can identify what the challenges are and to identify potential conflicts,” she said.

The research started about a year ago with a survey of municipalities and others involved in water quality and supply.

That was followed by a workshop in October, where it became obvious that a single source for water research was needed.

“We’re recognizing some of this knowledge does exist, but it’s not easily accessible. We have really good researchers who can’t access it,” Vaughan said.

She used water quality at beaches as an example of an area where historical data on beach closures exists, but isn’t available in one spot for the public to find.

Renzetti said the report can be used by the region and municipalities as they move forward in planning.

“You’re putting infrastructure in today that’s going to last 30 or 40 years, so you want to make the right decisions now, even though you might not think scarcity or conflicts are going to arise,” he said. “The last thing you want is in 20 years to be thinking ‘oh I wish we had of thought of that’.”

The local Liquid Assets study is part of a larger water research network launched earlier this year at Brock through a $2.3 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The research network will look at water-related issues across the country.

Studying water

* Liquid Assets: Assessing Water’s Contribution to Niagara

* Study requested by Niagara Region’s Water Smart program

* Research being done by Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

* Final report expected to be completed in early 2013


Economist Intelligence Unit: Waterless in 2030?

(via: Water Efficiency Journal)

A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (sponsored by Oracle) reveals that if water utilities plan on meeting water supply, large-scale infrastructure investments must be made—or else demand will outstrip supply by 2030.

The study, entitled “Water for All?”, compared the water resource management strategies of 10 countries—the US, Canada, UK, Australia, France, Spain, Brazil, Russia, India, and China—and surveyed 244 water utility managers and executives, including 20 “in-depth” interviews with water executives and independent experts. The participants’ answerers led researchers to conclude that while water providers are optimistic about their ability to meet future demand, that ability will be amplified or hampered by government action and consumer education. And all water purveyors will have to “think outside the box.”

“The leading overall response to water stress in the future is expected to be a sharp focus on demand management,” explains a statement released by Oracle in relation to the report. “This represents a shift in utilities’ traditional emphasis on continuing to supply increasing quantities of water in response to increasing demand.”

Meanwhile, developing countries have a tougher row to hoe. The study’s survey of water resource management strategies in the developing world reveals that climate change and erratic weather patters will increasingly influence the creation and maintenance of infrastructure in those countries.

“Utilities in the developing countries, in contrast, are more likely to focus on rolling out or expanding basic infrastructure,” states the report.

Other key findings:

* Increased water stress by 2030. Due to growing demand for water, caused by increasing populations, changing climate patterns, and wasteful consumer behavior, 39% of executives surveyed believe that the risk of national water demand outstripping supply by 2030 is “highly likely,” while 54% believe such a risk is moderately likely. Failure to address this could result in significant economic, social, and health implications.

* Barriers to conservation. Forty-five percent of utilities—especially in developed markets—see wasteful consumer behavior as their biggest barrier to progress, while another 33% believe tariffs are too low to stimulate greater investment. In developing countries, a lack of capital for investment tops the list (41%), while worries over climate change stand third overall (34%).

* Encouraging consumer engagement. Half of respondents (49%) believe pricing structures need to be changed to encourage conservation, while under four in 10 water utilities think water prices must be held down to ensure fair access to water for all (38%). With consumer behavior being the biggest barrier to conservation, it is critical for water utilities to engage with consumers to overcome this challenge.

* Increased investment. Almost all respondents stated that they are increasing investment to meet supply challenges (93%), with more than one in five (22%) increasing investment by 15% or more within the next three years.

* Innovative industry. Prompted by necessity, the water sector is becoming an increasingly prominent innovator, due to the implementation technologies such as smart meters and desalination solutions. For instance, one-fifth of water utilities in developed markets regularly evaluate new technologies, compared to one-third of developing countries. However, more water utilities must improve their ability to identify and implement such advances, with over one-third (36%) unaware of the innovation options available to them.

* Stumbling blocks. Drought and increased water pollution are seen by respondents as the biggest risks faced by water utilities, and are considered the most likely to occur. Similarly, half of respondents polled felt that that information and support from government bodies is lacking; while 43% recognize they must develop their management techniques to more precisely model future water availability or rainfall.


CBC: Water shortages hitting record-dry B.C.

Water shortages hitting record-dry B.C.

CBC News

Posted: Oct 6, 2012 10:24 AM PT

Abbotsford firefighters had to truck in water from the city's airport to fight a wood-chip fire Thursday night.
Abbotsford firefighters had to truck in water from the city’s airport to fight a wood-chip fire Thursday night. (CBC)

Southwestern B.C.’s long spell of dry weather is having serious effects on water supplies from the Sunshine Coast, to the Gulf Islands and beyond.

On the Sunshine Coast, northwest of Vancouver, a lake that supplies much of the summer water supply is 80 per cent empty.

Restrictions have been ramped up to “stage four,” meaning residents are not allowed to water their gardens, lawns or even wash their vehicles, said manager Dave Crosby.

“I’ve been in this organization for 33 years and we have never gone to stage three or four,” Crosby said.

On the Gulf Islands, some wells have already run dry, while other are being monitored closely for contaminants.

Low water levels could allow seawater or even arsenic to enter wells, according to Mary Cooper, of the Mayne Island Integrated Water Systems Society.

Cooper said it will take years before the aquifer, where wells draw their water, has recovered.

“It’s going to take two year to get that water down to the aquifer,” Cooper said. “In about two years from now, you’re going to see a lot of dead trees. That’s the first thing that gets hit is the flora, so now we’re looking at a fire hazard.”

Vancouver Island restrictions soon

The next two weeks will be crucial for water supplies in almost all Vancouver Island communities and if the dry spell continues, they too could impose watering restrictions.

Things aren’t much better on the mainland.

In Abbotsford Thursday night, crews battled a wood chip fire with flames almost 20 metres high and firefighters had to truck in water from the airport to keep the fire under control.

“This is about the driest I’ve seen at this time of the year and the fire risk is extremely high, even though we’re getting colder nights,” said assistant Abbotsford fire chief Dave Rivett.

Despite the record lack of rain, Metro Vancouver isn’t anticipating any problems yet.

Reservoir levels are at about 60 per cent capacity, which is average for this time of year, thanks to last winter’s snow and a wet spring and early summer.

EPA releases draft National Water Program 2012 Strategy

via @climateandwater Draft EPA “National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change” Released for Public Comment

EPA’s Draft 2012 Strategy adresses climate change impacts on water resources and EPA’s water programs. Climate change alters the water cycle and could affect the implementation of EPA’s programs. EPA and our state, tribal, local and federal partners must review and adapt the practices that have been developed over the past 40 years since passage of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other statutes. Ensuring that EPA’s programs continue to protect public health, and the environment that sustains our communities and the economy, requires immediate and continuous collaboration.

National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change—Public Comment Draft (PDF) (112pp, 3.6MB, About PDF)

How to Comment:

Comments must be received on or before May 17, 2012, 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.


Washington Post: Women, water and the ugly global crisis we’re not talking about

A story about women and girls

by April Rinne FEB 29, 2012 for the Washington Post

OPINION | Talk of the water crisis too often centers around water when it should be centered around women and girls.

In a series of posts leading up to the World Economic Forum’s launch of the Class of 2012 Young Global Leaders on Tuesday 6 March 2012, April Rinne of’s WaterCredit initiative discusses microfinance tools to address water and sanitation needs. In 2011, Rinne was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Imagine you’re a young woman in an urban slum, perhaps Nairobi or Mumbai. You spend several hours each day waiting for water to arrive on a truck. When that truck arrives, the driver charges a price that he alone sets.

You cannot control the price, how full the truck is, how many people are in line, when the truck arrives, or the quality of the water. You are unable to take on a job with fixed hours because you can’t predict these factors with regularity. To make matters worse, you never know the quality of the water coming from the truck, so you filter and treat it as best as you can, but your family often gets sick.

People whose only option is to purchase water from trucks operated by the local “water mafia” pay an average of 5-to-15 times more per liter than people with dedicated municipal connections. It is estimated, according to a 2006 World Bank report, that sub-Saharan Africa loses an estimated 5 percent of its GDP each year due to the water and sanitation crisis, a sum that can exceed all foreign assistance received in the region, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme. Current investment falls far short of the amount estimated to be required to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) for water and sanitation globally.

Those who pay bribes to get repairs done or falsify their meter readings to lower their bills are the lucky ones, since they actually have networked water access. Many more people do not have a water connection at all, and do not have access to the capital necessary to obtain it.

But this story is about more than water supply, it’s also about sanitation.

Basic lack of toilets lies at the core of the sanitation crisis. However, culture often compounds its effects in ways that are exponentially more problematic for women and girls. For example, due to privacy and cultural concerns, women and girls who don’t have toilets are often unable to go to the bathroom during the day. To cope with this they restrict their food and water intake, which leads to serious health problems. Moreover, when they are only able to go to the bathroom before sunrise or after sunset, they are also subject to dangerous situations such as assault and injury at night.

Everyone is affected, of course. But women and girls bear the overwhelming majority — in some regions upwards of 90 percent — of the global water and sanitation burden, according to a 2010 report by the World Health Organization. They are the ones pulled and kept out of school, rendered unable to take on productive work, and trapped by the gender and financial dynamics of this crisis.

Imagine you’re that young woman again. But this time the water in your village is hygienic, accessible and usable in some way — that is until waste finds its way into the mix. Maybe a neighbor has dysentery and defecates in the pond. Maybe the primitive latrine is too close to the well.

Now, imagine you are a ten year old girl in the developing world. Your family has water access and you’re able to go to school. However, your school doesn’t have a toilet. But you love learning, and you have an abundance of ideas about what you want to achieve when you get older.

Then, just as you reach the peak of your potential, you also reach puberty. Going to school when you’ve got your period is awkward, and you don’t have any alternatives, so you stop attending those few days every month. Pretty soon, the days add up and you fall behind. So, you stop going to school altogether, and your future plans are erased simply because you don’t have a toilet — a toilet that costs, perhaps, $150 in India. In what other context could we permit such a basic solution with enormous long-term value to go unmet?

Sanitizing the problem

Fixing a sanitation problem means toilets. Pit latrines. Hygiene — washing your hands after using the bathroom, preparing food away from human or other waste. Not defecating in the open. And most of all, it means dignity.

There’s a cultural problem on the other side of the equation as well. Toilet talk usually isn’t welcome at cocktail parties. Public discussions about the effects of menstruation or diarrhea are taboo in most places. Ironically sanitation often masquerades as a “water-related” issue. However, as the Gates Foundation and others have found, the return on investment in sanitation can be incredibly high. In order to leverage this, we cannot abide by the traditionally sanitized approach to charitable giving and development aid. We must open the discourse to include terms like pour-flush, eco-san and septic tanks.

Try a new filter

When it comes to the global water crisis, we often hear the statistics. Close to one billion people lack access to safe water. More than 2.6 billion people – more than one in every three people alive – don’t have an adequate toilet, according to a 2008 report by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. More than 3.5 million people died in 2002 from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes, according to a report by the World Health Organization. Water wars, impending water conflicts, water stress (not enough water in many places, too much water in others) is daily news.

In addition, water collection imposes significant time and productivity costs at the individual, household, family, community and national levels. More than 200 million hours are spent each day collecting water around the world according to data collected by And an estimated 443 million school days are lost each year due to collecting water and being sick from water-borne disease.

It’s time talk of statistics turned into talk of solutions. This scenario can change, and there are already innovative solutions in development. Organizations like NextDrop are in the early stages of creating a mobile phone application that would provide individuals with critical data on water availability and quality. Microfinance provides another, demand-driven pathway to a solution. As the Director of, I have seen first-hand how partnerships with microfinance institutions (MFIs) can link the water, sanitation and microfinance sectors in order to catalyze sustainable and affordable solutions for clients’ water and sanitation needs.

Small amounts of finance, mobile applications, and prioritization of toilets in schools. These surprisingly simple innovations can lead to a tsunami of social change. Water and sanitation can revolutionize the future of women, girls, and, in so doing, improve the world for us all. Let’s not waste another minute, or another drop.

Recycling water: Waste not, want not

via: The Economist blog

DECADES ago, your correspondent visited one of the larger sewage works in the Thames Valley to learn how the new biodegradable detergents, with their long hydrocarbon chains, were affecting the plant’s filtration processes. The plant was coping just fine, he was informed. And the output was so good, it was piped straight back to local reservoirs for redistribution.

Each drop of water used by Londoners subsequently passed through the plant for reprocessing at least six times before eventually escaping to the sea. The engineer in charge was convinced that, with further refinement, the sewage works would be capable of recycling the same water indefinitely—with the quality improving with each treatment cycle. Offered a glass of the finished product, your correspondent thought it tasted a good deal better than the chalky liquid that spluttered from London taps (see “From toilet to tap”, September 26th 2008).

In America, the assumption is that, if recycled at all, reprocessed effluent is used strictly for irrigating golf courses, parks and highway embankments, or for providing feedwater for industrial boilers and cooling at power stations. The one thing water authorities are loathe to discuss is how much treated sewage (politely known as “reclaimed water”) is actually incorporated in the drinking supply.

The very idea of consuming reprocessed human, animal and industrial waste can turn people’s stomachs. But it happens more than most realise.

Even municipalities that do not pump waste-water back into aquifers or reservoirs, often draw their drinking supply from rivers that contain the treated effluent from communities upstream.

A survey done in 1980 for the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), which looked at two dozen water authorities that took their drinking water from big rivers, found this unplanned use of waste-water (known as “de facto reuse”) accounted for 10% or more of the flow when the rivers were low. Given the increase in population, de facto reuse has increased substantially over the past 30 years, says a recent report on the reuse of municipal waste-water by the National Research Council (NRC) in Washington, DC.

Along the Trinity River in Texas, for instance, water now being drawn off by places downstream of Dallas and Fort Worth consists of roughly 50% effluent. In summer months, when the natural flow of the river dwindles to a trickle, drinking water piped to Houston consists almost entirely of processed effluent.

The main problem is not changes in the weather (though global warming hardly helps), but population growth. The American population has doubled, to over 300m, since the middle of last century—and is expected to increase by a further 50%, to 450m, over the next half century. Meanwhile, households as a whole have been consuming water at an even faster rate, thanks to the housing boom and the widespread use of flushed toilets, dish washers, washing machines, swimming pools and garden sprinklers.

Then there is the ongoing migration within America from the cooler climes of the north-east and mid-west to the sunbelt of the south. Since 1970, Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas have seen their populations surge by 85% to 400%. This exodus to warmer, dryer parts of the country has coincided with a decline in the construction of hydrological infrastructure—dams, aquaducts, tunnels, pipelines and reservoirs—for collecting, storing and transporting water to precisely those parched places.

The fact is, there are simply no more ambitious water projects remaining to be tackled like those of the early 20th century, which pumped water from the Colorado River and the snow-capped Sierra Mountains across hundreds of miles of desert to the thirsty cities of the American south-west (see “Water, water everywhere”, June 25th 2010). Today, few lakes and rivers within pumping distance of the country’s conurbations remain untapped. Meanwhile, dams that help purify effluent in rivers—by holding back water for months on end so that microbial and photochemical processes can do their job—are being dismantled to restore natural habitats and protect threatened species.

Over the past quarter of a century, the amount of water used in the United States has remained stable at around 210 billion gallons (795m cubic metres) a day. While consumption by households has tripled since the 1950s, the amount of water used to irrigate agricultural land and feed industry has declined. Farmers have embraced more efficient sprinkler systems, put more crops under glass, planted more drought-resistant varieties, and profited from selling their surplus water to nearby towns. On the industrial side, the use of thermo-electric power—with its need for cooling water—peaked in 1980 and is now below its 1970 level. Meanwhile, many old water-using industries have upgraded from steam to electric power or moved offshore.

Conservation has also helped ease the demand for fresh water, though it comes nowhere near offsetting the thirst of the sunbelt’s surging population. The only conclusion is that, like it or not, people will have to get used to drinking their own effluent.

Read the rest of the article

NRDC Report: 14 Cities Prove That Green Infrastructure Cleans Waterways, Cuts Costs and Greens Cities

WASHINGTON, DC — (Marketwire) — 11/16/11 — Cities of all sizes are tackling their water pollution problems, such as stormwater runoff and sewage overflow, by employing green infrastructure and design — and they will save money as a result, according to a peer-reviewed report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report provides detailed case studies analyzing how 14 cities are using these methods and encourages the EPA to advance these solutions nationwide later this year.

‘Every single day, millions of gallons of good water needlessly drain away, filling our waterways with sewage and urban pollutants, rather than replenishing our water supply,’ said NRDC Water Program Director David Beckman. ‘But it doesn’t have to be that way. By making our communities literally greener, we can make our water sources cleaner too — and with much greater return than conventional solutions.’

‘Rooftops to Rivers II‘ details common water pollution problems and provides case studies for 14 geographically diverse cities that can all be considered leaders for employing green infrastructure solutions to address their pollution problems. The cities featured in the report have improved their ability to manage stormwater and reduce runoff pollution, saved money and beautified their cityscapes by capturing rain where it falls.

‘Cities of all sizes are recognizing that green infrastructure — which stops rain where it falls — is the smartest way to reduce water pollution from storms,’ said Karen Hobbs, NRDC senior policy analyst. ‘It often only takes a fraction of an inch to trigger this kind of pollution. And the extreme weather we’ve seen in much of the country this year — from drought to floods and hurricanes — drives home the need for smarter solutions to our water woes.’

The 14 cities featured in the report are all positioned on a six-point ‘Emerald City Scale’ to assess how each of these trailblazing leaders is doing. They are listed here from the highest to lowest points scored:

  • Philadelphia, PA (6)
  • Milwaukee, WI (5)
  • New York, NY (5)
  • Portland, OR (5)
  • Syracuse, NY (5)
  • Washington, D.C. (5)
  • Aurora, IL (4)
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada (4)
  • Chicago, IL (3)
  • Kansas City, MO (3)
  • Nashville, TN (3)
  • Seattle, WA (3)
  • Pittsburgh, PA (1)
  • Detroit Metro Area & the Rouge River Watershed, MI (1)

The six-point scale identifies the primary actions every city can undertake to maximize their green infrastructure investment, including: a long term green infrastructure plan for the city, a retention standard, a requirement to reduce existing impervious surfaces using green infrastructure, incentives for private-party action, guidance or other assistance in deploying green infrastructure, and a dedicated funding source.

Only one city, Philadelphia, is undertaking all six actions, but each city featured in the report is undertaking at least one.

Green infrastructure — in contrast to paved and other impermeable surfaces — stops runoff pollution from the start, by capturing rainwater and either storing it for future consumer use or letting it filter back into the ground, replenishing vegetation and groundwater supplies. Examples include green roofs, street trees, increased green space, rain barrels, rain gardens, and permeable pavement. These design solutions have the added benefits of beautifying neighborhoods, cooling and cleansing the air, reducing asthma and heat-related illnesses, lowering heating and cooling energy costs, boosting economies, and supporting American jobs.

The report details how green infrastructure is frequently more cost-effective than traditional approaches to addressing runoff, like pipes and holding tanks. The City of Philadelphia estimates that a traditional approach to its sewage overflow problems would have cost billions more than its state-approved green infrastructure plan, which will achieve comparable results as it transforms 34 percent of the city’s impervious surfaces to ‘greened acres.’ The American Society of Landscape Architects recently surveyed its members and found that green infrastructure reduced or did not influence costs 75 percent of the time. EPA’s own analysis shows that green infrastructure approaches save money for developers, communities and, the vast majority of the time, for new development.

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via: Environmental Expert