New professional program in Water Finance starts with workshop in Fall 2011

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 1:00:00 PM

Professional Development News


By Kerry Freek


Hank Venema of the International Institute for Sustainable Development
Photo: Hank Venema (Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development's Water Innovation Centre and Sustainable Natural Resources Management Program) speaks about the water-carbon-energy-food nexus at the Water Finance workshop held in September 2011.

The Centre for Environment's (CFE) Professional Development Program introduced a new Water Finance Executive Development Program in 2011-12 with a workshop held September 20-21, 2011 in Toronto. It was intended for professionals who work indirectly and directly with the water industry with the aim of enabling them to understand, frame and act on the issues of water's financial value, scarcity and quality within fragmented and localized markets.  It looked at current and emerging water issues ranging from policy and regulation aimed at conservation and protecting the resource, to strategies that address markets and investment, the links to energy costs, ecosystem health and opportunities to invest in new technology and spur innovation.  

The first day, moderated Kerry Freek (Editor, Water Canada magazine), opened with a high-level discussion on the evolution of language in water and sanitation UN declarations of the past. Alex Bielak (Senior Fellow and Knowledge Broker, UNU-INWEH) discussed and argued that future declarations should be "direct, precise, and singular" to humanize the topics. University of Toronto Professor Ingrid Stefanovic's (Dept. of Philosophy and former CFE Director) talk meshed nicely with Mr. Bielak's ‒ she spoke of a need to examine value judgements around water statistics and communications.

U of T Professor Bryan Karney (Chair, Division of Environmental Engineering and Energy Systems), rounded out the morning panel with a talk on the logical relationship between water and energy, and how we might look at solving infrastructure challenges if we consider them together rather than separate issues. "We don't think too much about the work involved in water distribution," he said.

Chuck Birchall (Partner, Fogler, Rubinoff LLP), Charles Keizer (Partner, Tory's) and Scott Pasternack (City of Toronto Manager's Office), tackled water law from national, provincial, and municipal perspectives. Later, Professor Steven Renzetti (Department of Economics, Brock University) contemplated water pricing. "We're connecting to a network, not to a flow," he said, comparing possible water pricing methods to cell phone plans. He also pointed out that pricing indicators link directly to value propositions. "If water isn't scarce, why on earth would you spend time innovating?" he asked. Ontario Clean Water Agency's Nick Reid (Vice President, Business Development) spoke to that question with a talk on water tech and innovation, and Hank Venema (Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development's Water Innovation Centre and Sustainable Natural Resources Management Program) tackled the water-carbon-energy-food nexus.

The Climate Change Infrastructure Corporation's Faisal Mirza (Director of Operations) moderated the second, more business-oriented day, during which speakers discussed public-private partnerships, investing in water technology, and corporate water disclosure. In the afternoon, students applied their knowledge to address an interactive case study in groups. Event chair Murray Clamen (Former Secretary, International Joint Commission) wrapped the event, sparking a lively discussion between the diverse group of delegates, which included representatives from the oil and gas sector, the farming community, investment and law firms, conservation authorities, and engineering consultancies.

A Certificate of Completion in Water Finance was also offered.  By attending the workshop and successfully completing a take-home final exam, candidates could obtain a Certificate of Completion in Water Finance.   Another workshop is planned for May 2012.

For more information, please visit the Water Finance webpage or contact Donna Workman, CFE Manager of Program and Partnership Development, at d.workman@utoronto.ca or 416-978-7077.

Kerry Freek is Editor of Water Canada magazine.