By David Nesseth
As reliable water sources dwindle, and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions becomes critical, WaterTAP, Ontario’s water-technology champion, says in a new report that the province is optimally positioned to advance both the business and science sides of its thriving water-tech cluster.
With climate change impacting the supply of accessible clean water, WaterTAP’s newest report, Water: The next frontier on the path to a low-carbon economy, calls for the rapid adoption and deployment of energy efficient and low-carbon energy responses.
Fortunately, states the report, Ontario is home to a critical mass of clean water technology and services, hosting an $8-billion cleantech sector through 3,000 companies that employ more than 65,000 people.
Still, the water-technology sector remains somewhat untapped, particularly as Ontario must look for new opportunities to achieve its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
“The report is to inspire, but also to ensure both governments and educators recognize water’s role in cutting carbon emissions and connect those dots,” said WaterTAP CEO Dr. Peter Gallant. “These companies in the report represent examples of people tapping into water technology. The good news is that so many of these companies are in Canada, especially Ontario.”
WaterTAP’s aim to inspire is grounded in recent reports such as the one by Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, which points to the potential of water-related energy efficiency. It notes that the water and wastewater sector has realized just one-tenth of the proportional electricity savings from conservation programs experienced by the average customer.
In an interview, Gallant highlighted the award-winning work of Cambridge, Ontario company Lystek, which uses innovative technology to transform byproducts from wastewater treatment into higher use products, including energy. Technology installed at a wastewater treatment plant in Edmonton extracts phosphorus from wastewater and converts it to a commercial fertilizer found to reduce 12,400 metric tonnes per year of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions compared to conventional fertilizer production.
Gallant also credited a solids management solution offered by Bishop Water Technologies as an industry leader based in Renfrew, Ontario. The company uses industrial fabrics and the emission-free power of gravity to reduce the volume of wastewater solids by 90%. Bishop Water uses proprietary Geotube containers that provides an effective means of removing solids from wastewater at a fraction of the cost of traditional mechanical systems. In addition to reduced repair and maintenance costs from the technology, municipalities across Ontario are seeing massive reductions in energy costs because the system requires no energy. Bishop’s award winning Perth, Ontario installation is estimated to reduce emissions by 209 tonnes annually – a 71% reduction. Mining, pulp and paper industries and municipalities also use this innovation.
Since 2012, Ontario has supported WaterTAP in its mandate to help Ontario clean water innovators navigate the complex path from commercialization to market leadership. The investment is paying off, says WaterTAP. Over the last two years, companies working with WaterTAP realized $23 million (13 times the investment in WaterTAP) in incremental revenue for the Ontario economy.
- In Ontario, water and wastewater services can consume as much as one-half of a municipality’s total electricity use, and on average, over 30% of municipal carbon emissions are related to water services
- Across Canada, emissions from wastewater treatment increased by 22% from 1990 to 2015
- Ontario is home to Canada’s fastest growing cleantech sector with $8 billion in annual revenue generated by 3,000 companies that employ over 65,000 people
- The innovation ecosystem in Ontario includes 22,000 people employed in the water industry, 8,200 post-secondary graduates with water-related degrees, 42 Canada Research Chairs and nearly 50 universities and colleges hosting water-related research programs
- Ontario has over 130 companies focusing on analyzing water and energy use, 34 companies dealing with pipe inspection and rehabilitation, and a full range of providers implementing solutions
- Ontario will need to look for new and novel opportunities to achieve its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050
- Last year, companies who worked with WaterTAP grew 45% faster than companies that didn’t.
David Nesseth is a writer for ES&E Magazine.