The future of water

(Edmonton) A leading activist for water security in India, the chair of Nestlé’s board of directors and a world-renowned expert on water toxicology will receive honorary degrees from the U of A on March 1. The three recipients will then participate in a panel discussion on the future of water.

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“This special conferral ceremony and panel discussion will be a unique opportunity to recognize and engage three leading minds on issues that are critical to the future of our global community,” says U of A Chancellor Linda Hughes. “With research strengths across many different water-related disciplines, the University of Alberta has an equally unique opportunity to contribute new ideas, innovations and perspectives.”

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has been CEO of the Nestlé Group since 1997, becoming board chair in 2005. In August 2011, Nestlé was awarded the Stockholm Industry Water Award by the Stockholm International Water Institute, in part for its leadership in the 2030 Water Resources Group. The award recognizes Nestlé’s implementation of water management strategies, which include providing expert training for 300,000 farmers, which has resulted in significantly reduced water use and greater crop yields.

Brabeck-Letmathe leads a worldwide project on water resources for the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum (WEF), where he co-authored a 2030 Water Resources Group report, Charting Our Water Future: Economic Frameworks to Inform Decision-Making. The report argues that by 2030, many regions of the world will lack sufficient water resources, underscoring the immediate need for strategic thinking, systematic decision-making and investment among corporations, political leaders, investors, non-government organizations and water users, particularly in agriculture and industry, to avoid future catastrophe.

He also announced a partnership in 2008 involving the government of South Africa, Nestlé and the Water Resources Group to address critical water issues in South Africa. Similar partnerships through the WEF have been created with India, Jordon, China and Mexico.

Steve Hrudey is professor emeritus in analytical and environmental toxicology in the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. He spent 13 years as a cabinet-appointed member of the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board, the last four as chair, and was the first non-lawyer to hold this position. During this period, he served on 36 public hearing panels, 19 as chair of the panel. In addition he has testified before senate committees in Canada and the Legislative Council in Western Australia.

Hrudey has served on a number of high-profile expert panels, including the Research Advisory Panel to the Walkerton Inquiry (2000–2002), the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations (2006), the Technical Advisory Committee to the B.C. Minister of Health on turbidity and microbial risk in drinking water (2007-2008, as chair), the Expert Advisory Panel on Water Quality for Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2009–2011) and chair of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on Environmental and Health Impacts of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry (2009-2010).

He has also co-authored or edited nine books, including the widely acclaimed book inspired by the Walkerton tragedy: Safe Drinking Water�Lessons from Recent Outbreaks in Affluent Nations. He has written 26 book chapters, 19 expert panel reports, 163 refereed journal articles, 15 science discussions, six media op-eds and 73 conference proceeding papers. Hrudey is the 2012 winner of the American Water Works Association A.P. Black Research Award for contributions to water science and water supply, the second Canadian to win this award in its 45-year history.

Sunita Narain is director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi, India. Her key achievement has been expanding interest in India on the need for water security, using rainwater harvesting to augment resources and pollution control to minimize waste. Under Narain’s leadership, the CSE was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize.
The CSE has played a leadership role in addressing India’s water challenges. In the early 2000s, CSE analyzed bottled water and then carbonated beverages for pesticide residue content. The aim of the study was to understand the extent of contamination of groundwater and food systems and to use this research for reform of the regulatory system. The study led to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on pesticide residues in, and safety standards for, soft drinks, fruit juices and other beverages. The committee gave its report in February 2004, endorsing the findings of the CSE and recommending wide-ranging reform in food safety for the country.

Brabeck-Letmathe, Hrudey and Narain will receive their honorary degrees at the Timms Centre for the Arts, 3 p.m., March 1. The panel discussion, led by CBC’s Diana Swain, will follow the ceremony, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.