This guest column launches Building Our Blue Future, a monthly web series that will narrate Canada’s water story as it happens. The column also appears in the January/February 2012 issue of Water Canada.
Canada is blessed with freshwater resources. These resources provide essential services such as sanitation and clean drinking water. They provide recreation in the form of swimming, paddling, and fishing. They also help power our economy—from food production to pulp and paper to energy production. Even our national sport is played on water, albeit in a frozen state!
In many ways, our national identity is built on water. But how are we cultivating this identity and leveraging these freshwater resources?
True, some nations think of Canada as a water leader, assuming that we must be conscious stewards given our abundant liquid endowments. But this is by accident, not by design.
What if Canadian leaders actively packaged and communicated both our water challenges and our collective steps to meet them head on? What are the potential benefits, environmental and/or economic, in doing so? Are there risks? And how do we build the groundswell of engagement necessary to ensure the impact and longevity of such an initiative?
In response to these pressing questions of national importance, I would like to launch a challenge to build a new Canadian water story—a story that is hopeful, ambitious, and even aspirational. A story that will create awareness and drive alignment in both intention and action across a broad range of participants. A story that would celebrate our successes and in so doing, engender more of them.
Additionally, this exercise, both in process and product, has the potential to become brand-building, and even nation-building in a way that will attract international attention and open up new trade possibilities. And since the desired trade is one of water technology and water know-how, with its attendant social and environmental benefits in a world of seven billion and counting, brand “Canada” would earn the trust and even gratitude of the international community as the quencher of a growing global thirst.
Indeed, in November, a consultancy called FutureBrand ranked Canada as the number one country brand for the second year in a row, out of 113 nations. This is a welcome and well-deserved recognition, but such recognition is ephemeral and needs to be nurtured. In every category studied (values, quality of life, business environment, heritage and culture and tourism), water holds the potential to build an enduring national brand for Canada, a brand that will only grow in resonance.
Throughout 2012, I will draft a monthly blog as part of this mission to build a national water narrative for Canada. Business innovation, water technology, policy entrepreneurship, and water ambassadorship will provide both the inspiration and the backdrop for these writings.
Canada needs a new water story. To this end, I look forward to a dynamic dialogue with readers of Water Canada’s blog. Your responses and recommendations will be an integral part of this exercise in co-authorship. If we get this story right, then maybe, just maybe, we can all live happily ever after.
Anthony M. Watanabe is the founding CEO of the Innovolve Group, the company behind the annual Canadian Water Summit.