Water, water everywhere

Following on the heels of the Walkerton Inquiry, Fred Lazar, professor of economics in the Faculty of Arts and the Schulich School of Business, has been appointed to the newly created Water Strategy Expert Panel.

Right: Fred Lazar

An initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal, the expert panel will provide advice to the government on how to ensure that the investment needed to improve water and wastewater infrastructure takes place, that systems are financially sustainable, and that water rates are affordable.

Lazar brings the perspective of an economist to the panel, which also includes Harry Swain, who was Chair of the Walkerton Research Advisory Panel, and Jim Pine, chief administrative officer of the County of Hastings.

Left: From left, Harry Swain, Fred Lazar and Jim Pine

“The work of the panel will help communities across Ontario upgrade and enhance their water systems to meet our government’s tough environmental standards and protect human health,” said Minister of the Environment Leona Dombrowsky.

“Water issues have been a high priority in Ontario since the Walkerton tragedy in 2000,” said Swain. “Jim Pine, Fred Lazar and I will work hard with all stakeholders. We aim to give the government the best possible advice on how to manage systems that deeply affect health and quality of life for all Ontarians.”

Since the Walkerton crisis of 2000, the government has introduced strong new regulations to help ensure that drinking water is clean and safe. The next step is to invest in financially sustainable systems that treat and distribute water, and collect and treat wastewater, to ensure environmentally safe and clean drinking water for all Ontario residents. During the next two decades, Ontario’s population is forecast to grow by 40 per cent. The need for improved water and sewer services as well as schools, hospitals and roads will certainly increase as a result.

The panel will consult with a variety of stakeholders over the coming months, including individual, large and small municipalities, municipal and environmental organizations, plant operators, and engineering and public works experts.

“We welcome opportunities to work with the provincial government on achieving practical solutions to financing water and wastewater systems in our communities that are affordable for consumers,” said Ann Mulvale, president, Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

For more information on the Water Strategy Expert Panel, contact Fred Lazar at ext. 20252 or e-mail flazar@yorku.ca.