Posted by: Vicki Burns | September 17, 2010

Building the social infrastructure for sustainable water management – by Elizabeth Hendriks

Throughout the centuries, humans have used technical advances as a way to capture, control and distribute water, much to the benefit of our cities and growing populations. In Canada, the success in this approach is obvious as we experience population growth, agricultural surplus, and few outbreaks of water born disease.
As we enter into the 21st Century the reliance on technical infrastructure is beginning to fail. Our cities are crumbling and the water infrastructure debt is skyrocketing. Our local environments are being lost and degraded and are no longer able to provide ecosystem services important in protecting our communities from a changing climate. New and long-term pressures threaten our water resources but our current policy and management approaches are woefully outdated. 

image of a group of people standing with arms extended on a rocky shore

Waterlution participants 2008


Our water challenges are a social dilemma that requires we examine our water resources through a lens of integrated water management and decision-making. We need to rethink how our governments, business, and communities make decisions. It requires new ways of doing business, communicating, and interacting. We need to build up our social infrastructure to provide us with the tools we need to safely and sustainably manage our water.
Canadian Water Innovation Lab (CWIL) is one giant step in the right direction. CWIL is an exciting event creating the space to tackle our water issues — spanning generations, sectors, and cultures — it is a space in which solutions can be developed collaboratively. CWIL is an un-conference for un-common young leaders. It is designed to give 200 of Canada’s most water-passionate and proactive 18- to 30-year-olds the skills, insights, and connections to champion water management issues. Ultimately, CWIL’s mission is to develop leadership capacity, spur community water-related projects, and place water resource management issues prominently on the public agenda. We are building our social infrastructure to address the new and emerging challenges our towns, cities, provinces, territories, and country are facing.
CWIL 2010 takes place October 21 to 24 at Camp Hector near Calgary, Alberta. For more information check out Waterlution’s Canadian Water Innovation Lab.
By Elizabeth Hendriks, Water Governance and Policy Coordinator, POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and CWIL Facilitator


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