November 4, 2015
I am preparing for a panel at the Green Economy: Ontario conference. My session is on how public policy can drive green economic growth.
The good news is there are lots of examples and opportunities.
Guelph has a good story to tell in driving water innovation and it begins with two unique conditions.
Guelph is one of a few Canadian cities that rely solely on groundwater for its water supply. Guelph also discharges its treated wastewater into a small tributary of the Grand River Watershed. This has meant the sustainability of groundwater resources and river ecosystems has always been front of mind in local decision-making. This alone has been a driver of innovation.
But there is more to the story.
With strong community support, Guelph said no to a water pipeline to Lake Erie. This municipal policy decision provided a powerful platform for innovation.
The timing of the Ontario Water Innovation Act was fortuitous for Guelph. On the heels of the community’s decision to live within its local water resources, it provided the policy framework for the development of an ecosystem of support for water innovation in Ontario, including:
- Showcasing Water Innovation
- Water TAP
- Southern Ontario Water Consortium
- Ontario Centres of Excellence
- Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs
According to Water TAP, Ontario has more than 900 water industry companies providing innovative water and wastewater technologies and services.
The outcome for Guelph has been the decoupling of water consumption from population growth and a marked increase in the performance of its wastewater treatment facility as partnerships with the private sector, research centres, incubators, accelerators and government programs have supported the deployment of new technologies. Both outcomes are better for the environment and municipal finances. City facilities that are used to pump water or sewage account for almost 30% of municipal greenhouse gas emissions.
And Ontario has emerged as a respected world water technology hub.