Strategies & Innovations
Editorial: Summer 2015 – Making connections
Making connections - Sharing information and resources will make existi
By Colleen Cross
Ground water is surface water’s shy cousin.
Ground water is surface water’s shy cousin. Every so often it bubbles up in the media to remind us it’s there, a source of drinking water for some 30 per cent of the public and a crucial source of drinking and general-use water for some 80 per cent of rural Canadians.
Canadians are talking about water in general these days. With North America tuned in to the drought crisis in California and the world watching India’s ground water woes, it has grabbed headlines and captured the public’s attention.
While a United Nations report released in March warns the world needs a new approach to safeguarding water, two recent perception surveys from RBC and Nanos suggest there is high interest in water but inadequate knowledge of it – and of ground water in particular.
Fortunately, the people who know about ground water also are talking about it. A great example of collaborative thinking took place May 28 in the form of a water security symposium (see details on page 30) at the Munk School’s Program On Water Issues (POWI) that drew on the expertise of policy specialists. They discussed two papers that suggest directions the Canadian industry might take to protect ground water, and to organize and pay for its mapping and monitoring.
Presenter David McLaughlin and POWI director Adele Hurley followed up with a potent article in the Globe and Mail aimed squarely at the public.
Everyone agrees we need to educate the public on water interaction and on quantity and quality issues. That starts with making more connections among interested parties. There is a lot of work being done by agencies and provincial associations already, but sharing of information is what’s missing to make this work more effective. The Ontario Ground Water Association (OGWA) network is but one promising model of co-ordination among groups focused on ground water and surface water. Membership in the OGWA includes cross-membership in the Canadian Water Quality Association (CWQA), the Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association, the Ontario Water Works Association and Ontario Petroleum Institute. Members of the CWQA sit in on various committees to be proactive in identifying issues of concern and sharing those concerns with the other groups.
There are many others – the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency and Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, for example. These groups work well but in most cases independently of one another.
One of the obstacles to making connections among interested parties and associations is distance. Technology has the potential to make that less of a barrier.
At a discussion about the potential for a national association held at Canwell in June 2014, Colin Slade of Drillwell put forth the intriguing idea of meeting through video conferencing as a way to lower communication costs. And as the recent Munk School symposium proved, technology – in this case live streaming – can be used effectively to bring to the table everyone who belongs there.
The Canadian industry seems to have the will. Many of us want to see a central contact point for educational resources, certification, mapping, monitoring and information gathering in general. But we’re not there yet.
We all can help speed up this process by making connections and sharing information, especially when we see overlapping of interests and potential duplication of effort.
Imagine the powerhouse of knowledge and political leverage Canada would be if our considerable resources were pooled.