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Inside View: August 2013

July 22, 2013  By Gary Jones

This time last year, I left you with some homework to do on the issue of water. So, how’d you get on? Arghh.

This time last year, I left you with some homework to do on the issue of water. So, how’d you get on? Arghh. Can’t remember what the homework was, can you? Well, by way of a reminder I suggested that you “plan for (at least) two things:

Make do with less. Given the trends in water availability extremes experienced in many places, water restrictions are becoming commonplace.


Make sure Canadian water is used to grow Canadian crops. Do some homework and check out what’s happening to the water that you think is ours.”

Well, it seems that some people have been acting on these issues:

■ Foreign aid and development work in Asia and Africa often focuses on rainwater harvesting, water filtration and storage, minimizing use and reducing possible pollution when fertilizer is put through an irrigation system.

For several years, a consortium of Dutch greenhouse builders and farmers, together with experts from Wageningen UR, “have been working together on sustainable farming systems with local partners in Kenya and Ethiopia. During this Green Farming program, a demonstration area of 15,000 square metres was built in Kenya and equipped to capture rainwater and reuse drainage water. In the basins, a huge bag protects the water from (pathogens) blowing in. There is a purification installation that pretreats the groundwater. All these measures use half the amount of water and fertilizers, and provide the system with 15 per cent more yield.”1

Researchers from Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, together with students from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, also gathered data to convince local officials of the advantages of the techniques to help apply them elsewhere.

■ The United Nations proclaimed 2013 “International Year for Water Cooperation,” with March 22 being the annual World Water Day. The UN says that, “every action involving water management requires effective co-operation between multiple actors whether at the local or international scale. Rivers cross political boundaries and international cooperation is necessary to share the water resources of a trans-boundary river basin between upstream and downstream users with different and sometimes conflicting needs, claims and cultures.”2

A good example of this would be the Columbia River Basin along the U.S.-Canada border in the West.

“Countries also need to co-operate on the sharing of trans-boundary groundwater, an important and increasing source of freshwater. In all, there are 276 international basins. These cover around 46 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, host about 40 per cent of the world’s population in 148 nations and account for approximately 60 per cent of global river flow. If any of the people involved in water management do not co-operate, the co-operation chain is broken and water resources will not be managed in the most effective way, with adverse effects on human lives and the economy.”

Maybe Canadian water heading south of the border is a good thing, according to the UN philosophy, but perhaps this should be with conditions attached. Maybe the sale and use of such water should only be permitted in cases where the user can certify that all measures to reduce the consumption to a minimum have been implemented? Sounds harsh, but we’re all looking to use the same finite resource, and it’s only fair that those who are trying to reduce consumption be suitably recognized for that effort.

So, here’s your homework for this year.

How about we do some co-operation as an industry and aim to set new world standards for our water use?

Each year, the UN presents its “UN Water Award.” The aim is “to promote efforts to fulfil international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015 through the recognition of outstanding best practices that can ensure the long-term sustainable management of water resources and contribute to the achievement of internationally agreed goals and targets. The award is given yearly in two categories: Category 1 is awarded to best water management practices, and Category 2 is awarded to best participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practices.”2

How about it?

1 Wageningen University, via “Hortibiz,” March 26, 2013.
2 U.N. Water sourced at:

Gary Jones is a faculty member in the School of Horticulture at Kwantlen University, Langley, B.C. He serves on several industry committees and would welcome comments at

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