Canada in the global water world: A UN analysis of capabilities

November 23, 2018

Hamilton, Canada - The United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute on Water, Environment and Health today released a critical examination of the capacity of Canada's water sector with respect to meeting and helping other countries meet the water-related targets of the U.N.'s global sustainable development agenda.

Several components of this capacity are examined, including water education and research, investment in water projects that Canada makes internally and externally, and experiences in water technology and governance.

Analysis of the water education system suggests that "there is a broad capability in institutions of higher learning in Canada to offer training in the diverse subject areas important in water. In most cases, however, this has not led to the establishment of specific water study programmes. Only a few universities provide integrated water education. There is a need for a comprehensive listing of water-related educational activities in universities and colleges - a useful resource for potential students and employers."

A review of recent Canadian water research directions and highlights reveals strong and diverse water research capacity and placed the country among global leaders in this field. Canada appears to be within the top 10 countries in terms of water research productivity (publications) and research impact (citations). Research capacity has been traditionally strong in the restoration and protection of the lakes, prediction of changes in climate, water and cryosphere (areas where water is in solid forms such as ice and snow), prediction and management of floods and droughts. There is also a range of other strong water research directions.

Canada is not among the top 10 global water aid donors in absolute dollar numbers; the forerunners are, as a rule, the countries with higher GDP per capita. Canadian investments in Africa water development were consistently higher over the years than investments in other regions of the global South. The contributions dropped significantly in recent years overall, also with a decline in aid flow to Africa. Given government support for the right business model and access to resources, there is significant capacity within the Canadian water sector to deliver water technology projects with effective sustainable outcomes for the developing world.

The report recommends several potential avenues to elevate Canada's role on the global water stage, i.e. innovative, diverse and specific approaches such as To improve water management at home, and to promote water Canadian competence abroad, the diverse efforts of the country's water sector need better coordination. There is a significant role for government at all levels, but especially federally, in this process.
The report in full is available at

The UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health is a member of the United Nations University family of organizations. It is a U.N. Think Tank on Water and its mission is to help resolve pressing water challenges of concern to the UN Member States through science synthesis, cutting edge research, application of on-the-ground science-based scalable solutions and targeted public outreach. It is supported by the Government of Canada and hosted by McMaster University.

United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health

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