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Statistics Canada provides us a full RSS feed of statistical goodness! November 20, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, environment, food for thought, public policy issues, random thoughts, sustainability, wastewater, water, water policy.
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Hat tips to Greg Andrews (TechVibes) and Darren Barefoot (Capulet) for pointing me out to Statistics Canada’s RSS data feeds. You’ll see – even though I’m a chemical engineer, during my Masters and PhD degrees, and in my post-graduate work I have done quite a lot of qualitative research.

My personality traits work to my advantage when using qualitative research methods. I am pretty good at interviewing people, analyzing textual data, coding using Strauss and Corbin’s axial coding methods, undertaking ethnography, etc. I am considered a specialist in institutional analysis because, well, I know how to study rules and routines. And the majority of these studies are undertaken by observing and interviewing.

The thing is, during the course of my PhD, I became REALLY quantitative. Since my advisor’s training was quantitative, he impressed it upon me. I’m quite grateful to him for doing that because thanks to his sage advice and training, I have examined wastewater governance and policy using quantitative methods (something that is rather atypical in this body of literature). And of course, there’s my love of game theory and econometric methods. WOWSA.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I drooled (just as Greg tweeted earlier this morning) when I saw StatsCan’s RSS feeds. Given the kind of research I do, economic, government, population and environmental indicators are the RSS feeds I grabbed. You can grab any others as you may see fit.

Unfortunately, and this is quite sad, I can’t get any quantitative data on water through those RSS feeds (or at least I haven’t been able to get any so far). I do know where to find some water-related statistics in Canada, but the state of the art in regards to accurate water stats in Canada is (as mentioned in Karen Bakker’s edited book) rather appalling.

If I manage to get my hands on some good data, you’ll see some pretty graphs here sometime soon.

The International Year of Sanitation was 2008 – how much progress have we made? November 12, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, wastewater, water, water policy.
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Stuck in Customs

Credit: Stuck in Customs

When I see how little do people think about wastewater and the right of humans to clean water, sometimes I wish I didn’t do research on wastewater governance. Admittedly, I was entirely thrilled at the beginning of the year, as the UN had announced that 2008 would be the International Year of Sanitation.

However, as time has gone by, I have begun to wonder (and a recent tweet by my friend Nadia Nascimento) made me dig a bit deeper in my archives.

Well, I can’t say that there’s been much progress. The “culture of flushing” still seems quite prevalent, and the only recent local news story about water pollution that I read was related to a Langley mushroom farm. Um, do people in Vancouver really think that we have made great strides in the way we manage our wastewater. I sure hope they don’t. Because if they do, they’re in for a big surprise.

I’m going to embark in doing some serious research on local (Metro Vancouver) wastewater governance and I’ll report back with some of my results. In the mean time, I should just say that if you want to be more environmentally conscious, you should make efforts in reducing the amount of wastewater you generate.

Upcoming environmental events in Vancouver – September 2008 September 9, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, Brew 2.0, climate change, drinks, environment, friends, Gastown, Green Drinks, Launch Party Vancouver, link love, local events, random thoughts, social networking, sustainability, upcoming events, Vancouver, wastewater, water, water policy, Web 2.0.
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Two upcoming events are rather relevant to me and both fall on the same day.

About the Community Sustainability Breakfast [Metro Vancouver’s website]:

Sustainability Community Breakfasts – Nature’s Health Drink – Always on Tap
Wednesday, 17 September, 2008
from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM
British Columbia Institute of Technology
555 Seymour Street, Vancouver

About Green Drinks Vancouver Sep 2008 [Green Drinks Website]

WHEN the next regular Green Drinks is: Every 3rd Wednesday of the month (except in Dec and July) Our next event is on Sept 17th, 2008
WHERE: Steamworks pub at 375 Water Street on the edge of Gastown near Waterfront Station.
Please be aware that due to changing space availability we cannot guarantee we’ll be in the same room each month – if you can’t find us just ask Steamworks staff which room we are in.

It’s lucky that both of these events fall on the same day, and that I’ll be back in Vancouver by then! And again, I’ve got a full week booked (Brew 2.0, Green Drinks, Launch Party AND a special day!). Can someone please clone me? Thanks.

Adaptation and vulnerability to floods and climatic events in Mexico September 1, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, climate change, environment, Focus on Vancouver, food for thought, public policy issues, sustainability, Vancouver, vulnerability and adaptation, wastewater, water, water policy.
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This post is worthy of much more in-depth content, but I just wanted to show that the municipality where my parents live is really unprepared for extreme rain. The photos and video shown below show the local river almost entirely flooded (and rather polluted, as you can see).

River overflow 2

River overflow 3

As you can see, cars are at serious risk of being taken by the river. The local authorities are rather unprepared for these extreme rain events. But the funny thing is, I wonder how prepared are the Metro Vancouver municipalities. I will be doing some research on this topic upon my return to Vancouver.

Water footprint: A new tool to examine water scarcity and use August 24, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, public policy issues, wastewater, water, water policy.
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Lighthouse Park West Vancouver

Water is a topic that I’m actually rather passionate about (and I’ve previously written about it, like my discussion of the culture of flushing and the concept of water governance). I love researching it and writing about it, particularly because a professor whom I really respect a lot (part of my doctoral committe) told me that the two issues he saw were going to be the most important in the future were water and energy issues. I came across the concept of water footprint via the Max Gladwell blog (actually their twitter account – Hat tips to Max Gladwell!).

What is the water footprint? Well, I am guessing it is modelled after the ecological footprint that Mathis Wackernagel and Bill Rees coined in 1992. The website WaterFootprint.org defines:

The water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business. Water use is measured in terms of water volumes consumed (evaporated) and/or polluted per unit of time. A water footprint can be calculated for any well-defined group of consumers (e.g. an individual, family, village, city, province, state or nation) or producers (e.g. a public organization, private enterprise or economic sector). The water footprint is a geographically explicit indicator, not only showing volumes of water use and pollution, but also the locations.[Water Footprint.Org]

It’s an interesting concept, particularly when we apply it to our day-to-day staples, like a cup of coffee (that according to calculations by Hoekstra and Chapagain is about 140 litres of water per cup). As indicated by the Environmental News Network, the concept of water footprint gaining adepts. I was kind of pleased to find that the writer of the ENN article was associated with the World Resources Institute (WRI). One of my very best and closest friends is also associated with WRI as he did a post-doc there, and their datasets on water are some of the finest that I have encountered. Truly speaking, I would not mind doing a post-doc there.

I would like to know if any of my readers actually thinks much about his/her water consumption patterns. Do you ever think about your water footprint or your ecological footprint?

Governing water, governing ourselves July 22, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, environment, public policy issues, sustainability, urbanization, water, water policy.
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Continuing on my research-related posts, I have previously talked about my research on wastewater governance, on environmental NGO mobilization, and now I’ll briefly talk about what I have studied on water supply governance.

False Creek (the Yaletown side)

I was going to leave this post all the way until Blogathon, but Arieanna’s recent post on “Canada, the water” reminded me of the relevance of understanding how water supplies and water management works (great post Arieanna by the way). Arieanna’s post calls attention to the fact that the bottled water being sold at Whole Foods was pretty much targeted towards tourist buyers.

Ianiv and Arieanna on Flickr

Photo credit: Ianiv and Arieanna on Flickr

What worries me a bit more is not so much the privatization and commodification of water, but the misconceptions of water availability on this planet. According to the 2nd. United Nations Word Water Report, between 25 and 40% of the world’s drinking water comes from ground sources (groundwater).

This fact should be scary to people, but I’m not sure that people who live in Canada and particularly British Columbia (since we are so well served by our watersheds and local reservoirs) realize the degree of water scarcity that pervades the world, even if there is a generalized perception that . Therefore, it’s not hard to think that many people have a reason to be rightfully annoyed by the increasing privatization of water supplies.

North Vancouver Lower Lonsdale

Given the investment and capital costs that need to be covered in order to provide groundwater for drinking purposes, I would imagine that people would be cognizant of water scarcity and avoid increasing demand on water reserves, both by conserving water and by recycling grey water. In one of my research projects, I have looked at the use of common pool resource (CPR) theory to try and understand the conflicts amongst two communities who share and access the same aquifer (in Mexico).

The nature of public accessibility of aquifers makes them an excellent laboratory to study the behavior of communities who have to share a common resource that can be depleted if inappropriately managed. The purpose of my post was (as subtly suggested in the header) to indicate that in order to appropriately manage or govern water, we need to first learn to govern ourselves and control our natural consumptive instinct, in order to avoid depletion of our water reserves. Will we be able to do that? And how can we increase the visibility of the challenges of governing water when we can clearly see that other issues (such as climate change) are so high up in the environmental agenda in Canada?

More resources and materials for reading:

– The World Water Assessment Project page – Provides lots of information and good statistics. The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme is currently putting together the 3rd World Water Report.

CBC Series on Water – While I am VERY weary of pointing people out to media sources instead of academic sources, I kind of liked this series.

– The National Water Research Institute of Environment Canada – Basically focuses on freshwater, but a good resource nonetheless.

– The International Water Resources Association (IWRA).