Canada needs innovative water strategies to capitalize on global food demand

Global demand for food is expected to double by 2050, and Canada is one of five countries with the capacity to expand its agricultural exports in a significant way.

The Blue Economy Initiative (BEI) has released a new report, Better by the Drop: Revealing the value of water in Canadian agriculture, authored by Hans Schreier and Chris Wood. The report discusses Canada’s opportunity to increase agricultural output in order to meet growing demand for food, and highlights the need to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada’s fresh water supply.

“The potential increase of Canada’s export of agricultural outputs can only be realized and sustained with strategic water management,” says Hans Schreier, co-author and professor in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. “While our water resources are a comparative advantage over other countries, many of our food growing areas fluctuate between periods of drought and flooding. Sustainable water management is therefore an essential element of this economic opportunity.”

“Agriculture is our biggest water user, and also leads in impacts on water resources,” notes Chris Wood, co-author of the report. “To secure both our export opportunity and our natural capital, we need to become more conscious of both sides of that equation.”

In order for Canada to reach its potential in becoming a global agri-food leader, Canada must be strategic in making use of a suite of water management approaches and tools. These approaches include virtual water and water footprint analysis to help guide decisions and practices best suited for different watersheds. At at national level, Canada is the third largest exporter of virtual water – the water embedded in the production of export goods – in the world.

This is the third in a series of BEI publications. The first report, Running Through Our Fingers, prepared by Steven Renzetti, Diane Dupont, and Chris Wood, looked at Canada’s inability to adequately measure and account for the value of water to our economy. The second report, Canada as the Water Solutions Country: Defining the Opportunities, prepared by David Crane, helped frame a national conversation around Canada’s water-related strengths and emerging opportunities to become a global leader in water innovation and sustainability. Later in 2013, BEI will showcase a vision for a sustainable water “city of the near future”.

To download a copy of the paper: Better by the Drop: Revealing the value of water in Canadian agriculture

About the Blue Economy Initiative

The Blue Economy Initiative is a national project founded by Canadian Water Network, the Royal Bank of Canada, and the Walter and Duncan Gordon FoundationThe project seeks to inspire dialogue among Canadian decision-makers and key influencers around the opportunities and benefits of preserving water, and the economic risks of not making sustainable decisions.

BEI’s goal is to build the business case for water sustainability by strengthening our understanding of the value of water. The long-term vision is for Canada to have a prosperous future as a global leader in water stewardship.