08/02/2012 05:11 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada Should Lead the Clean Water Economy

In 2007 when the Goracle's "An Inconvenient Truth" hit, leading fashionistas and futurists alike claimed green was the new black, pushing the environment to the frontlines as more than just the latest fad. Now, some 5.5 years later, there's a new colour palette on the horizon and it is blue.

Water is essential to all human activity. And with a global population of 7 billion and counting, many countries around the world are already experiencing what the rest of us will soon find out -- water is a finite resource and our governance, use and treatment of it today, will determine our prosperity and quality of life tomorrow.

Canada has a unique opportunity to lead in the water economy of the future. We can do this by showing the world how we respect this natural heritage through good policies, governance, ambassadorship and innovation. The goal: to conserve our country's resources by providing the expertise and tools to water-scarce regions so they can regenerate, protect and restore their own watersheds.

I say it's time to create a "Blueprint for a Blue Brand."

Among the benefits to be realized:

▪ Stronger, more unified voice both domestically and internationally

▪ Increasing international media reach -- especially online

▪ Facilitating export of made-in-Canada water technology

▪ Attracting foreign investment

▪ And ultimately, stronger protection of our own water resources

The good news is that Canada already ranks consistently high in global surveys for quality of life -- OECD Better Life Index (10), UN World Happiness Report (5) and FutureBrand (1), to name but a few. The bad news is these rankings are vulnerable to federal government policies that can (and have recently) garnered negative international attention.

Each Canadian success story of clean water technology, municipal infrastructure renewal and business innovation is critical to supporting the creation and success of Canada's global blue brand. Once the benefits of creating a blue brand are widely understood and agreed upon, all actors across the water spectrum would engage as a means of furthering their own work. The challenge is getting to this point.

The first step is one of coordination. Indeed, in my travels across the country, I am struck by the incredible water leadership I encounter. Ontario has an exciting new agency dedicated to attracting investment in water technology. Manitoba has a ministry with a mandate for water conservation and protection and a dynamic Minister to boot. Sustainable Development Technology Canada is receiving increasing funding applications from made-in-Canada aquaculture technology firms. Finally, the Royal Bank of Canada continues its leadership as it approaches the halfway point in its 10-year Blue Water Project, supporting conservation and protection efforts and hosting an annual Blue Water Day.

The trick -- and this is no small task -- is to pull together these and other such initiatives (water-based tourism and recreation, for example) into a cohesive brand strategy, to create a new Canadian water story that will resonate locally and draw attention internationally. I am calling on Canadian businesses, governments and technology innovators to join the movement.

An increasing number of fashionistas, futurists and water leaders across the country are standing by to paint the many hues of Canada's emerging blue brand.