February 28, 2011

Water Shortage Solutions To Be Discussed At CWN Conference

The global demand for fresh water will exceed the available supply by an estimated 40% within the next 20 years, according to research scheduled to be presented at a Canadian Water Network (CWN) conference this week.

Roughly 300 scientists, economists, and policy makers will attend the international summit, which will be held in Ottawa from February 28 through March 3, according to a CWN press release. In addition to research findings, speakers and other participants will present new conservation tools and techniques designed to help prevent a global water catastrophe.

"Climate change will affect all societies and ecosystems most profoundly through the medium of water but there is no other way to generalize the crises ahead. At unpredictable times, too much water will arrive in some places and too little in others," UN-Water Chair and Institute for Water, Environment and Health Director Zafar Adeel said in a statement.

"Water is a local issue demanding responses tailored to specific locations. Sadly, most communities, especially in developing countries, are ill-prepared to adjust to looming new realities. Canadian expertise in water management is greatly needed," Adeel added.

In addition to the water shortages, the CWN press release states that catastrophic floods such as those that recently occurred in Australia and Pakistan will become more frequent. Those events, "normally expected once a century"¦ can now be expected every 20 years instead," they claimed.

That topic will be addressed by Hans Schreier of the University of British Columbia (UBC), who according to AFP Reporter Michael Comte, "will present research buttressing the need for flood-prone areas to brace for more frequent disasters."

Using Canadian insurance data, Schreier will demonstrate that claims resulting from such extreme weather have increased 20-fold over the past three decades, and that flood-related claims are now more common than fire or wind-related insurance claims each year, said Comte. Schreier will call for improvements in infrastructure designs to help prevent rainwater runoff.

"Curbs, drains and impermeable surfaces could be replaced where possible with grassy shoulder depressions that collect and absorb rainwater while directing excess runoff into constructed wetlands or storm water retention ponds," Comte said.

"This would mitigate flood damage, but also polluted runoff normally drained via pipes into lakes and rivers would be instead filtered and cleaned as it sinks through the ground, helping compensate the extensive loss of wetlands to development," he added.

Also scheduled to speak are representatives from the Cleantech Group, developers of environmentally friendly technology; microbiologist and 2010 Stockholm Water Prize Rita Colwell; UBC Professor Judy Isaac-Renton, who will discuss the use of genetic science to assess water quality; and EPA Researcher Nicholas J. Ashbolt, who will illustrate how conservation and technological innovation could reduce demand for water by up to 70% in developed nations.


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