A big glass of our most precious resource: fresh, clean drinking water
By Bruce Ringrose, AgriINNOVATIONS
After my weekend ball tournament late last month, I enjoyed a tall glass of one of nature’s finest gifts: fresh, clean drinking water from my personal well. I am reminded continually of our great fortune here in Ontario to be so close to fresh water resources. Ontario watersheds support a huge part of Canada’s population: more than 12 million people in cities, towns, and villages across the province.
Southern Ontario’s Grand River Watershed alone supplies water for 39 municipalities and 1 million residents. Home to cities like Kitchener-Waterloo, this region also represents some of the province's most viable farmland. Growth in agriculture and other industries, along with sprawling residential development, has our dependence on natural resources at an unsustainable high. For all the differences of urban and rural cultures in the region, they are bound together by the common benefits—and responsibilities—that come with stewardship of the water upon which they depend. Water quality is intrinsically tied to our health and prosperity—and to our local food supply, from the land that it grows on to when it’s served at my family’s table.
How will Ontario’s diverse municipalities work together to preserve our water resources and support our farmers, while also expanding developments that create jobs and economic growth? Well, we’ve got policies, plans, frameworks, roadmaps, and strategies. None of them will function to their highest potential without a clear and true commitment to active collaboration and consensus. A concerted effort is the best-suited prescription to resolving the practical problems we face in meeting our stewardship goals.
I am fortunate to be a leading partner in a collaborative project to bring new agricultural practices into use on farms in the Grand River Watershed. AgriINNOVATIONS, a division of Ottawa-based ClimateCHECK, has taken a “social innovation” approach to resolving the practical issues around farm practices and water quality. Put another way, our approach centres on finding the best social solutions to mobilize economic, environmental and social benefits. With funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence Social Innovation Program and the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, we’re developing resources to boost the adoption of better and more sustainable fertilizer usage on farms. With online tools, such as the CFI’s GrowZone online training program, and the secure web forums of our Collaborase platform, we’re looking at these critical issues from a fresh perspective.
Our Grand River Watershed effort is a pilot project, which we hope to expand to other watersheds of Ontario. Our pilot launched this past August thanks to the pooled talents of our expert and energetic team representing farm groups, municipalities, scientists, fertilizer retailers, and of course the Grand River Conservation Authority. We’ll report our findings in late 2013. To read more, visit: https://collaborase.com/farming4rwatershedvisit and attend our free technical workshop and panel discussion set for Nov. 22 in Kitchener, Ontario (see web site for details).
When it comes to the large and often serious challenges of water stewardship, I ascribe to a decidedly positive outlook. Consider Margaret Mead’s inspiring adage:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Bruce Ringrose is Vice-President of Buisness Development at AgriINNOVATIONS, a division of ClimateCHECK. AgriINNOVATIONS combines subject matter expertise and web-based solutions to engage with agricultural experts to create content and to enable mobilization of this knowledge to achieve sustainable agricultural intensification. Bruce lives in a rural Eastern Ontario community with privately owned wells experiencing urban sprawl and aggregate resource extraction.