Wednesday Night #1222 with Maggie Catley-Carlson

3 August 2005
The Invitation

Thanks to our mutual friend, Peter Ratzer , we are delighted to welcome Margaret (“Maggie”) Catley- Carlson, who, among her many activities serves as Chair of the Global Water Partnership. She is also a past Chair of the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) and of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) , Vice Chair of the International Development Research Centre and a member of the Board of the International Institute for Environment and Development

Maggie has successfully pursued a distinguished career in economic development and is especially remembered in Canada for her judicious stewardship of CIDA as its president.

She is the former President of the Population Council and Chair of the Geneva-based Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council. Prior to joining the Council, she was Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Canada, President of CIDA and Deputy Executive Director (Operations) of UNICEF.

Also expected to join us will be our good friend, Bill Cosgrove, past President of the World Water Council , and now President of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement of Québec , along with Robert Letendre, recently returned to the fold at the City of Montreal, after a 3-year absence during which he served as Director General of Development and Peace and Professor Jan Jorgensen, Acting Dean of McGill’s School of Management, who directs the Economic Policy Management programme, which is designed to give practitioners from developing and emerging market economies the analytical tools and management skills needed to become effective policy advisors.

We expect that discussion will include water, economic development, Africa, however, given the wide-ranging interests of the participants, almost anything might be on the table at some point during the evening.

At a time when more than 1 billion people around the world lack access to clean drinking water, the United Nations is spearheading cutting-edge developments in the field of isotope hydrology, a technology that allows scientists to gauge the age, origins, amount and flow of various water sources to better meet and manage growing water needs. The scientific advance is being led by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which says it currently funds 84 isotope hydrology projects in more than 50 countries, including those hit hardest by water shortages such as Bangladesh and countries throughout the Middle East and Africa

July 2005 Seeing green in Africa By Carolyn O’Hara

While rich-country leaders look to heal Africa with generosity, China and India are helping to pull Africa out of poverty with good, old-fashioned greed.
As leaders of wealthy countries pat themselves on the back for debt relief and development assistance to Africa, China and India are doing their part to help develop Africa’s economies. The two Asian giants are pouring funds into the continent to find energy for their superheated economies and markets for their products.

According to the International Monetary Fund, five of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. The results aren’t isolated either. In 2005, 26 African countries-including many with expanding ties to the Asian giants-will likely exceed 5 percent GDP growth. Chinese and Indian investment, it turns out, may be as important to solving African poverty as Western charity.

The Report

This was truly a star-studded evening with sparkling and probing participation from experts and non-experts alike. It opened and closed with the question of how to inspire enthusiasm for environmental topics among decision makers and their political bases. Maggie Catley-Carlson with her exuberant blend of broad experience, stark statistics, common sense and humour is a poster person for cloning. If there were one of her in every town hall and every bully pulpit, the question would not have to be asked.

Subsequent comments from two participants describe the flavor of the evening better than we could:

From a first-time guest:

“It was a bit like Moses Znaimer’s ideaCity, only more intense, intimate, and far more politically diverse — really appreciated the wide political spectrum.
[I am] still digesting the claim that Canada’s water is largely non-renewable fossil water, which I see you also covered in Aug 28, 1999. I’m wary of Soviet-style river diversion (Aral Sea, etc.), but am also wary of those who are alarmed by proposals to export water to the U.S. but are relatively indifferent to cities such as Montreal losing 30-40% of its treated water to leaky infrastructure.
One key to better water use could be elimination of agricultural subsidies including subsidized irrigation. On subsidies, Lawrence Solomon of the John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Mr. Bolton has been an outspoken critic of the United Nations, causing many to question Mr. Bush’s action and Ambassador Bolton’s value to the world body.

There is one view that possibly because Mr. Bolton is so outspoken, he may be able to concentrate the gamut of the problems of the UN by insisting on addressing the most important. While the controversy over his appointment has died down, there is no likelihood that support – or even understanding of the importance – of multilateralism will influence the U.S. view that the UN is a tool for the execution of U.S. policy. Meanwhile, there are serious problems of reform of the UN that will continue to plague the main body, while the regional and humanitarian bodies appear to have a brighter future.

[Editor’s note: Our scribe was too kind. American participants (and some others) in Wednesday Night are far less sanguine, noting that the Secretary-General’s words of welcome were more correct than warm. (“We look forward to working with him as I do with the other 190 ambassadors, and we will welcome him at a time when we are in the midst of major reform”)
It is to be hoped that the scrutiny of the Senate and American and world media will ensure that Mr. Bolton softens his bull-in-the-china-shop diplomacy. Meanwhile UN officials and diplomats decline to comment, other than to say that the appointment of the ambassador is an internal matter for the U.S.; they will deal with Mr. Bolton and attempt to make the best of matters. It is also noteworthy that some major steps toward meeting the U.S. agenda for UN reform have been achieved during the ‘care-taker régime’ at the UN.]

3. Rideau Hall
The media scooped the PM and broadcast the news on Wednesday that the PM would announce on Thursday that Michaëlle Jean is to be the new Governor-General of Canada There was little debate on the merit of that choice and, while most Wednesday Nighters take pride in the fact that an immigrant woman of colour can aspire to become head of state, there was a fervent hope that that choice was not motivated more by political optics than a reflection of the national desire that the most qualified individual be chosen regardless of sex, race or country of origin.

[Editor’s note: There was, however some puzzlement as to why a successful award-winning – including the Amnesty International Journalism Award in 1995 – young documentary journalist would want to be Governor General. It is rumored that a number of people turned the offer down, possibly because of the requirement that the GG forswear any political activity and/or endorsement of controversial causes, not only during his/her tenure, but forever afterwards.]

Mother Nature is a pretty tough old dame who has seen it all, – pretty hard to defend her. Earth doesn’t care. It’s we who care. Spoil the planet and you kill us. Contaminate the soil, befoul the air and it’s our descendants who mutate into bug-eyed monsters … that’s what we’re worried about: not saving the earth – saving our species. … The Earth doesn’t need saving, it’s us we have to worry about. John Chancellor, NBC

Implementation of the Kyoto protocol is limping along, sometimes providing cost-benefit conflicts, sometimes involving conflict between relatively short-term political gain and long-term ecological gain.

There appears to be some reluctance on the part of nations to implement the requirements of the Kyoto, while permitting others to continue as they have in the past. Nonetheless, it is logical to view compliance as in any nation’s self-interest, given that it isglobal warming that will be increased or mitigated according to how many nations comply. At the end of the day, every step towards implementation helps humanity and there is every likelihood that slowly, even reluctant nations will follow. Moreover, nations that are not required to cut emissions may, out of enlightened self-interest, follow China, which has been tackling the problems of cleaning up its environment. And now Australia and the U.S. have moved to create a not-exactly-Kyoto alliance with China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

In 1995, then-Québec Premier Jacques Parizeau cancelled a proposed James Bay project and the problem appeared solved. In the light of current increased demand, the debate between the impact on the population of James Bay must be weighed against the adverse impact of switching to energy produced from nuclear and fossil fuels. England, lacking Canada’s natural resources will soon be again facing decisions about investment in more environmentally friendly nuclear rather than oil or gas-fired stations, but the waste disposal aspect of this energy source (described as another unfunded liability) remains an unresolved problem.


In the recent past, Canadians were concerned that under NAFTA (which at this stage does not include any reference to bulk exports of water) an excessive quantity of Canadian water would be piped south to the U.S. This has not happened, nor is it likely to happen. The truth is that the main reason that rampaging free enterprise is no longer that interested in our water is that we don’t place realistic monetary value on that commodity which is most valuable to life. Any scheme to move water around would have to be totally publicly financed. As the era of globalization replaces the era of mega-projects and governments are judged by how much they can reduce public expenditures, such projects have lost their attractiveness.

There are, nevertheless, a number of cross-border water-related irritants, which could become serious problems including North Dakota’s plan to divert waters from Devils Lake into a tributary of the Red River, which could damage the ecology of the Red River‑Lake Winnipeg system, and the current proposal to take water from the Great Lakes to meet the needs of municipalities just outside the Great Lakes basin.

[Editor’s note: It was announced on August 5 that a deal has been reached between the U.S., Canada, North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba, more than 18 months after Canada first called on the U.S. to have the Devils Lake project reviewed. (Despite Canadian pressure for a hearing, the agreement did not involve the International Joint Commission (IJC), which has an extraordinary 120-year history of successfully overseeing the Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty.) It calls for both sides to design an advanced filter, if needed, to protect Manitoba waterways from foreign organisms. Critics on both sides of the border believe that it does little to protect Canadian waterways from invasive species.]

The world
The world shortage of water, which is very real, is due to population growth rather than wastage. Further exacerbating the problem are the use of water systems for waste disposal, and governments’ reluctance to spend the money necessary to maintain the water delivery infrastructure.Demography and water are inextricably entwined. Today we have the same amount of water available for 6.3 billion people as we had for 2.5 billion in 1950. The increased pressure of increased population with the same amount of available water, plus our proclivity to flush all the chemicals we use with water systems means that the water crisis is here NOW for a lot of people.

There is no international (UN) organization for water as there is for Agriculture or Health. No-one is looking at the distorting effects of current water subsidies on international trade patterns. The WTO doesn’t see this as a trade issue and the FAO doesn’t see it as part of their mandate. Therefore, water management is in the hands of some interested informal coalitions e.g. the World Water Council and the Global Water Partnership.

The big issue is resource management, a necessarily public sector issue. If you want a functioning system, you have to have a tax base you can charge for water, but most countries don’t have a tax base. At the delivery level, in some countries, there are excellent public sector organizations (ex. Hydro-Québec); in other countries, the lack of managerial ability at the public sector level points to a role for the private sector, but this approach is opposed by anti-globalization forces.

Very few countries in the world have a Ministry for Water and yet it is the ultimatepublic resource. Healthy public policy debate, backed by science and scientific data is an absolute necessity. Some countries (Korean Development Research Institution and the Thai DRI) have created Resource Councils, like Canada’s late and lamented Economic Council, which take policy problems away from the politicians, foster public debate, launch trial balloons and afford the politicians an opportunity to gauge public reaction. It is noteworthy that Québec has followed this route and in 2002 introduced a comprehensive water management policy that should serve as a model for other governments. Of course, implementation of the most cogent policy still requires political will and funding.

Even if the population’s water consumption were controlled through metering or other uses, drinking water represents only 7% of total consumption, while Industry consumes 12% and Agriculture between 70% and 80%. (It takes a ton of water to make a kilo of rice.) The question becomes: how much water do we need to feed the world? A little-understood concept is thetrade in virtual water whereby countries deliberately forego agricultural production with its demands on water supply for irrigation, and import produce. The Middle East, for example, imports as much water in the form of produce as there is flowing in the Nile River on an annual basis.

If water were priced like other commodities, the equation would change, but the price of produce would certainly increase. Indeed, the current subsidization of agricultural produce in areas where irrigation is employed has contributed to the problem, inhibiting the ability of countries with adequate water supply to compete effectively in selling their crops.

How to change water (mis)management? It appears that countries need to hit a brick wall before they will change their water consumption patterns. China has abandoned its emphasis on agriculture in favor of urbanization, opting instead to use the water resources of others by importing Canadian/Australian/U.S. grains and cereals.

Everyone on Earth needs water and uses water. Therefore everyone needs the infrastructure that brings water to people. And yet, we cannot attract financing to infrastructure or services. Therefore, our infrastructure is either degraded or nonexistent. [At our local level, in Montreal, none of the tax base was used to maintain the water system, leading us to lose up to half our potable water through leakage.]

In response to this critical problem, the World Water Council and the Global Water Partnership established a panel chaired by Michel Camdessus which prepared the reportFinancing Water for All that outlines what it would take to get money to flow into infrastructures. The conclusion is that governance within the sector is so poor that, without major reform, it will not attract either internal or external finance (see Relevant Links below). Are there steps being taken to change conditions so as to attract financing? Yes, in some countries, notably India, which is taking very determined steps.

New sources of fresh water?
Hydrologists caution against assuming that all water is renewable. “Fossil water”, the melted water from the glaciers that filled in gouges in the earth’s surface on a one-time basis when the continental ice sheets melted, is a non-renewable resource. Careful analysis of the nature of the water in our great watersheds is vital in determining how to use water sustainably. One need look no further than the recent example of the Aral Sea for an example of the huge and irreversible ecological disaster that can result from tinkering with basic hydrology.

Climate change, in the form of global warming, whose impact increases the farther north one goes, has played a part in melting glaciers and the polar icecaps, which will replenish waterways; sea levels are rising, flash floods are more frequent, but in the southern hemisphere the same warming will cause some water to disappear.

The oceans are one source of fresh water. There are thousands of desalination projects in the world. There are two main problems with this technology, the principal one being the fact that it requires energy to extract it from the ocean, the second being the disposal of the brine. If the cost of solar cells continues to decline, this technology will become more viable, but even if it is a good solution for urban culture, it will probably not be for agricultural use. In the meantime, rivers are being dammed and diverted to provide potable water for local use and export.

Who should be responsible for honouring the promises that companies make to their workers? Pension plans depend on company contributions and investment returns for their funding. The situation has been dire all round.

Following extensive consultations and deliberations, the Québec Government implemented a Water Policy in the fall of 2002 in order to: ensure the protection of this unique resource; manage water with a view to sustainable development; better protect public health and ecosystems.

World Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure, chaired by M. Michel Camdessus, presented its report titled Financing Water for All at the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto in March 2003.

The Council of Great Lakes Governors encourages and facilitates environmentally responsible economic growth by establishing a cooperative effort between the public and private sectors among the eight Great Lakes states and with the provinces of Ontario and Quebec

Asia-Pacific climate pact launched *The United States has struck what many see as an empty deal on climate change with Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. The six nations issued a joint “vision statement” at the launch on July 28 of their Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

World summit must remember development, observers say One of the primary goals of the United Nations’ world summit next month is supposed to be to evaluate the successes and failures so far of the Millennium Development Goals, but that goal is at risk of virtually disappearing amid the world body’s focus on reforming itself, critics warn.

Washington Times Editorial Aug 5, 2005: To enhance America’s national security and energy security over the long term, it is imperative that the United States expand its use of nuclear power.


The mistakes were made 50 years ago in the legacy pensions – promises were made that never should have been made; we live in a world where the opportunity to generate the benefits that retirees expected is not there

The worker and the taxpayer will suffer so that the shareholder may retain as many benefits as possible – this is Capitalism at work

It’s the same fundamental issue. The U.S. wants to run the U.N. like a joint stock company

There is a stream in the U.S. that knows what multilateralism is, but that stream is not in ascendancy right now

Why bother (to reform financing of water infrastructures)? The middle class is covered, current arrangements only inconvenience women and the poor … these people don’t have very much political power

People don’t pay enough for water for it to (appear to) be a problem

What you have to change is agricultural use (of water)

Water should be as much a right as the air we breathe

People are willing to pay for water, but the governments won’t let them

It would take only a small percentage of G.D.P to implement Kyoto, but should the U.S. get a free ride?

Not every country must pass Kyoto, but ultimately, they will come along because it is in their best interest to do so. … In environmental issues, the trend is your friend

China and other countries … the only countries who have made a good decision to conserve water by importing produce, because they cannot compete with U.S. and other developed nations’ subsidized agricultural products

What we need is more public sector involvement in management of this public resource

1.2 billion people do not have water delivered daily … public sin … but one has to look at the sins of the private sector

Carbon trading will certainly enhance American business support for Kyoto – you keep polluting in return for money, which is better than polluting and not paying money


Near-term trading Range Outlook Wed Aug 3rd, 2005

  • Canadian Dollar: 82¢ U.S. – 83¢ U.S.
  • Euro: $1.21 U.S. – $1.23 U.S.
  • Crude oil: $60.00 U.S. – $63.00 U.S.
  • Gold:- $435.00 U.S. – $440.00 U.S.
  • Dow-Jones: D.J.: 11,000 before year-end
  • The T.S.X :11,000 before year-end

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1222 with Maggie Catley-Carlson"

  1. Amanda Waters February 24, 2009 at 6:14 am ·

    Maggie Catley seems to be very important person. Spending night with her should must have been fun!

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