On World Water Day, March 22, 2016, Linda Gowman, Trojan Technologies’ Chief Technology Officer – delivered the keynote address at the 7th Annual Graduate Research Fair and Water Celebration, held at the University of Waterloo (a UN-inspired event, co-hosted by the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University).
Keeping with the World Water Day 2016 theme of “Water and Jobs”, Linda focused her talk on the intersection between water treatment technology and the broader theme of water stress. Specifically, she addressed why today, more than ever, there is a need to involve experts from every sector in discussions about water.
Throughout her talk, Linda candidly addressed why she believes water is such an important issue, and why the technology is only one aspect of the solution. Below are some excerpts from her speech.
The Conversation About Water and Jobs
This year’s theme for World Water Day is “Water and Jobs”, but I’m not going to give an accounting of how many engineers that it takes to make a water widget – that’s because I think there is a much bigger and more important conversation to be had about water.
“This is about the many people that it will take for us to truly start to value water as a resource, and about who is needed to take humanity to a practice of sustainable use of this very precious resource”
Interrelated Variables and Sustainability
The notion of sustainability can take on meanings that you would never anticipate, if you were not in the business of treating water. We find ourselves engineering to the sustainability of existing infrastructure – it seems obvious when you say it, but you might not ever think of it without the context.
In the Waterloo Region, the installation of Trojan’s technology onto a well head to remediate chemical contamination of the water and allow the wells to go back into production, has helped to keep the ground water level steady. So in addition to providing water, the pumping helps to prevent basements from getting wet. Sustainability here means not just that water is provided, but that the existing civil infrastructure, in this case existing homes, is protected by the proper management of ground water levels.
These interrelated variables aren’t always obvious on first glance, and who would think that the solution to wet basements was to put UV-oxidation technology on to well heads and restart a previously unused well field? But that is what has happened.
Scientists and Engineers Have a Duty to Communicate
“Those of us who are wired to be technical experts have a duty to communicate what we are doing to the broader public.”
So here is my challenge to you – communicate what you are doing to some family members this coming weekend. Think deliberately about what you will tell them – not just what you are doing, but why you are doing it.
This sort of communication is difficult – it needs practice. Doing it well will help you immensely if you are one of those water experts who in the course of time will be engaged in the broader, contextual issues around water – where you will be communicating with others, perhaps colleagues, who will not be experts themselves.
This being said, as a scientist and professional engineer, it is clear to me that the easy part of the water challenge is sorting out the technology, and the profoundly more complicated parts are figuring out the psychological, social, financial, governmental, even spiritual aspects that surround our relationship with and dependence upon water.
Calling All Talent – Experts from Every Sector Needed
According to WaterTAP- the Water Technology Acceleration Project resulting from legislation of the Ontario government, there are 22,000 water-related jobs in water in Ontario. Many of these jobs will be related to something technical, but many will not.
At Trojan, roughly half of our staff are science/technical experts of one kind or another, directly involved in the research, engineering, design, manufacture, implementation, and service of our technology. The other half are experts in other areas, such as sales, marketing, information technology, and human resources.
“Water is such a fundamental human need, that diversity of expertise and balance of opinions and interests is desperately needed, with a genuine focus on sustainability, properly defined and honestly executed.”
You don’t need to be a technical expert to work on our world’s water challenges. I am calling on all talent. Because all talent is what it will take.