Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would also like to thank the honourable members of the committee for the invitation to the Canadian Water Network to speak along with my colleagues on this important topic for Canada.
I am the executive director of Canadian Water Network, which is a national not-for-profit organization. We were created in 2001 through the federal networks of centres of excellence program. As an NCE, we help convert research around major water challenges into practical solutions and real-life applications.
At CWN, Canadian Water Network, our perspective is that success happens when the right people and leading knowledge are combined effectively around clearly articulated and shared goals for water management.
Over the past 12 years of our existence we have really developed a model on that basis and philosophy that has connected hundreds of researchers from over 40 Canadian universities and international institutions.
We have over 500 partners in the private and public sectors. Those partners have collectively invested over $45 million in our efforts. We recently launched two national research consortia, established through using this end-user approach in the areas of watershed management and municipal water management.
I wanted to give you that background because it is from that perspective, of an organization that's engaged in addressing the complex challenge of making knowledge actionable within and to a diverse water community, that we're offering what we see as the current opportunity for the federal government to achieve further progress in the Great Lakes area by aligning knowledge with resources for results. Our real point is that we would like to see leadership by the federal government in establishing a binational systemic management framework for the Great Lakes.
You'll see in our submission to the committee that we have used this terminology of systemic framework several times. What I mean by that is when it comes to water, there's a high degree of interconnectedness within both the ecosystems as well as the connectedness with our economic and social systems that depend on them. So the goals and the actions are connected and highly interdependent. As a result, achieving progress requires that we take a holistic, or a whole system or systemic approach, that recognizes the interconnection between the different drivers in the system and the impacts they have.
As a preferred strategy for water management, this topic applies equally well to discussion about any of Canada's great lakes, including Lake Winnipeg, Lake Athabaska, Great Slave Lake, and Great Bear Lake. It is this direction in which the world is moving with many other constituencies. I think you will have heard my previous testimony about European water framework initiatives, or many of you may be familiar with things like the Murray-Darling basin in Australia.
As established by many witnesses at your committee before me, the Laurentian Great Lakes region is of tremendous importance to Canada and it's really the heart of the North American economy. It's not only home to over 60% of Canadians if you take Quebec and Ontario as part of the full basin, but it also represents a strong component of Canada's national knowledge resource base. It has over 77% of Canada's R and D, according to Statistics Canada, occurring within the Great Lakes basin, and it includes 22 universities and myriad other institutions.
To illustrate the importance of the Great Lakes region to the world's economy, if you combine Ontario and Quebec and the eight U.S. Great Lakes basin states and consider that as a single political entity, it would rank between the second and fourth largest economy in the world, just behind the U.S. as an entity itself and China.
Important to this discussion today is the fact that the strong functioning of just about every element and sector of that $4.7 trillion economy is dependent on water and related ecosystems.
In Warren Buffet language, we like to say that in Canada our water resources are truly our durable competitive advantage. There may be substitutes for energy, but there are simply no substitutes for water.
In response to the committee's questions that you put to us, the first being the priority issues of concern, from our perspective it's really something that Theresa talked about earlier in her comments. It's really moving from a remediation legacy to a management cleanup mindset.
Significant gains have been made in the Great Lakes cleanup since the 1972 signing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Much of this has resulted from a focus on the major end-of-pipe, or point source contamination, waste water treatment plants, mining effluents, and pulp and paper. We need to acknowledge these successes and certainly stay the course on those cleanups.
While significant strides have been made by tackling those priority hot-spot issues, these efforts to some degree represent the important but low-hanging fruit in terms of this tough game, and the more complex and persistent issues of current and ongoing concern have now emerged as priorities. These concerns generally respect broader issues or more system-wide issues and often involve non-point source impacts or inputs that make a challenge.
You've been hearing about these issues and studying them. They include the resurgence of toxic algal blooms; oxygen depletion, particularly in Lake Erie; algal fouling and contamination of beaches and nearshore environments; fisheries decline; ecosystem impairment due to changing lake conditions and the issue of invasive species; the accumulation of persistent contaminants; and the general topic of the vulnerability of the full lake functions to the uncertainties that are resulting from population growth pressures, development, and changing climate.
These issues are unlikely to be resolved by maintaining a site cleanup area of concern mentality and remediation. It really requires a more system-wide management approach that recognizes the various contributing factors, but also the nature of long-term impacts of activities on watershed conditions. Inputs to watersheds in the upstream regions, particularly in groundwater, can take years to decades to show their impact on the lakes in terms of understanding conditions. It also requires a shift to more of a best management practice strategy in terms of cleanup and remediation as key to addressing the issues away from a focus simply on legacy cleanup.
Research action, certainly in parallel—and I stress in parallel, not before—can play an important part in helping to understand the system behaviour, forecast potential future conditions and scenario options, and importantly, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of practices and technologies so that we're really moving to a truly adaptive management approach.
Figure two in the briefing handout—and I brought the colour version along because it's really hard to see in the black and white—is simply there to give you an indication of the nature of the overall stresses that are present in the lakes as mapped by the Great Lakes environmental assessment and mapping project out of Michigan. That map is a cumulative map of 34 individual stressors. I think it's not a big surprise, if you consider figure one, to see the coincidence of the areas of concern with where some of those stresses exist on the map.
The important point is that such stresses are imposed by the increasing population and development both in the basin itself and frankly globally, in terms of the demands that will be put on that basin. I talked about what an important economy it is with respect to global changes and those changes being exacerbated—not caused by, but certainly exacerbated—by the issues of a changing climate, which includes more frequent extreme events. These are likely to persist into the future.
The significance of water and its connectiveness through the whole ecosystem and our economy as well means that the impacts of decisions we make or actions we take are similarly connected: when we pull on a string on one end, we're likely to affect the pattern and sometimes unravel the stitches on the other side. A practical approach to initiating a management system in the Great Lakes needs to consider the full range of the important risks and opportunities related to water. I have a couple of examples to illustrate that point.
One is risk to municipal water supplies. If the occurrence of blue-green algae blooms were to threaten the removal or shutdown of a major drinking water intake for a major city, or if a storm potentially damages that infrastructure, that represents a substantial threat to municipal drinking water supplies, but not just in terms of public health; there are a lot of industries that also rely on it.
Another is manufacturing. Food processing is the second-largest manufacturing sector in Ontario, with $37 billion in sales in 2010 involving 114,000 people. Over 70% of that industry relies on municipal infrastructure.
The flip side of the risk is opportunity: adopting innovative techniques and technologies and resiliency in communities. ZENON and Trojan are leading companies developed in the Great Lakes basin. In 2004, Ontario revenue from water-related goods and services was $5.2 billion and 900 water companies. That's still a small part of what's actually now calculated to be about half a trillion dollar global market.
The horticultural sector generated $5.7 billion in farm cash receipts across the country. The ornamental horticultural sector is the largest sub-component of that. These sectors are currently seeing significant growth and opportunity, serving expanding market needs that could grow, particularly with stress in other areas, such as the Imperial Valley, but they're also facing risks when it comes to dealing with waste water or the threats of climate change.
As your committee has been discussing with numerous witnesses, there's a whole array of organizations, 13 Canadian federal and 11 provincial agencies on the Canadian side, and similar on the United States' side.
You can see it's a complex solution that needs an alignment around core goals.
To sum up, given the breadth of the interconnectedness of these issues, we need more effective alignment of resources that can result from establishing a base framework that supports more systemic management as opposed to location-focused hot spots, defines the desired actual future state, the innate characteristics of that state, and ensures focus of resources that stay the course and maintains priorities.
In conclusion, the good news is that the institutions and the instruments through the IJC, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the COA actually exist and we have the resources. The federal government could then take leadership in developing a binational Great Lakes basin framework.
The opportunities exist, Chair, and it's leadership and sustained support that are the ingredients most required for success.