Water worries: What is the state of our most valuable resource?

UBC Dialogues: Water Worries - What is the state of our most valuable resource?

We often hear about the possibility of future water wars as populations can’t survive without adequate and safe supplies of fresh water. In recent years, the effects of climate change have led to a global redistribution of water reserves, and agricultural and industrial uses are further straining our supplies of clean fresh water. California is in the midst of a devastating drought and in recent months areas of British Columbia have been hit by drought-like conditions. What steps do we need to take to protect the quality and quantity of our water supplies for decades to come? What lengths will governments go to in order to secure fresh water sources? Who “owns” the planet’s water and how can we ensure there’s enough to go around?

This event took place October 7, 2015, at The Fairmont Waterfront in downtown Vancouver.

Official Broadcast and Online Media Partner:


Special thanks to our webcast partner:

Irving K. Barber Learning Centre





Johanna Wagstaffe – CBC Meteorologist


Margaret Catley-Carlson, BA’66, LLD’94 – Vice Chair, Canadian Water Network

Leila Harris – Associate Professor at IRES Institute on Resources Environment and Sustainability and Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice; Co-Director of the Program on Water Governance

Simon Donner – Associate Professor, Department of Geography

Damien Gillis, BA’02 – Documentary Filmmaker and co-founder of the online publication “The Common Sense Canadian.”

Speaker Biographies

Johanna Wagstaffe

Johanna WagstaffeJohanna Wagstaffe is an on-camera meteorologist for CBC covering local, national and international weather and science stories. She joined the CBC News: Weather Centre in the summer of 2007 working on the CBC News Network morning shows.

Johanna is now in Vancouver and her forecasts can be seen daily, on CBC News Vancouver at 5, 5:30, 6 pm, as well as part of the brand new CBC News Now team, presenting the latest weather & science stories with Ian Hanomansing at 5, 7, 10 pm PT across the country.

With Wagstaffe’s background in seismology and earth science, she is often utilized by CBC as the go-to expert for insight into breaking science stories. Some of the stories she has covered recently include the Copenhagen Climate Conference, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, and flying with the Snowbirds.

Johanna Wagstaffe graduated with an honours degree in geophysics from The University of Western Ontario. She was first exposed to weather forecasting as a summer intern at the Environment Canada Severe Weather Centre and then obtained her post-graduate meteorology certificate from York University.

Margaret Catley-Carlson, BA’66, LLD’94

Margaret Catley-CarlsonMargaret Catley-Carlson is an international civil servant who is actively involved at the board level in support of improved water resource management and the twin issues of agricultural productivity and rural development. She is vice chair of the Canadian Water Network Board and patron and past chair of the Global Water Partnership. She is a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and the Rosenberg Forum.

Ms. Catley-Carlson serves on the boards of the International Food Policy Research Institute, International Commission on Integrated Mountain Development, Syngenta Foundation, International Fertilizer Development Center and the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Additionally, she serves on the Council of Advisors of the World Food Prize, the Tyler Prize and Stockholm Water Prize.

In her earlier career, Catley-Carlson was president of the Canadian International Development Agency, deputy executive director of UNICEF in New York, president of the Population Council in New York and deputy minister of the Department of Health and Welfare of Canada. She holds ten honorary degrees and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Leila Harris

Dr. Leila Harris

Leila Harris is an Associate Professor at IRES Institute on Resources Environment and Sustainability and Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. Dr Leila Harris is also an Faculty Associate of UBC’s Department of Geography and the  Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.  She also serves as Co-Director of UBC’s Program on Water Governance and is a Member of EDGES Research Collaborative: Environment & Development: Gender, Equity, and Sustainability.

Leila trained as a political and socio-cultural geographer, and her work examines social, cultural and political-economic dimensions of environmental and resource issues, especially in developing contexts. She has focused extensively on water politics and governance questions, including research on water access, affordability, and management in Turkey, Ghana, South Africa, and for first nations in British Columbia.

Simon Donner

Dr. Simon DonnerSimon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at UBC, as well as an associate in UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues, Biodiversity Research Centre and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the Atmospheric Sciences Program. He came to UBC after a few years in the Science, Technology and Environment Program in the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He spent his undergraduate days at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He also did a master’s degree in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and a PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin with the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

Damien Gillis, BA’02

Damien GillisDamien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues, especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada’s wild salmon. He is co-founder of the online publication The Common Sense Canadian, which, as the website states is; “An uncommonly sensible take on our Economy and Environment”! He is a director and cinematographer, known for such films as; Farmed Salmon Exposed: The Global Reach of the Norwegian Salmon Farming Industry(2009) and Dear Norway: Help Save Canada’s Wild Salmon (2009), and more recently for his brand new film Fractured Land (2015) which is currently being played at the Vancouver and Calgary International Film Festivals.

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