Session Information

Water Integrity: Infrastructure & Innovation

Date: Thursday, March 3

Time: 2:00pm - 3:30pm

Format: SPARK Talk

This session brings a solutions-oriented outlook on water security trends to ensure access to water and catalyze economic growth. Join leading experts to learn how investment, emerging models of delegated water governance, innovation and technology deployment are scaling solutions and addressing water scarcity.  Take away key insights on how cross sector partnerships create opportunities for sustainable business and effectively conserve, manage, and distribute this vital resource. 

Topic Speakers

Karen Bakker is a Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia, where she is the Director of the Program on Water Governance ( The mandate of the program is to spur policy innovation in water governance. Her team has worked in over a dozen countries on four continents.

The author of more than 100 academic publications in leading scientific journals (including Science and Global Environmental Change), Dr Bakker has published books with Oxford, Cornell, UBC, and University of Toronto Presses. Her work has been translated into Spanish and French, and she has been an invited speaker at Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford.

Fluent in French and Spanish, Dr. Bakker regularly acts as an advisor to governments and non-governmental and international organizations, including the Conference Board of Canada, the OECD, and UNDP. Dr Bakker also actively engages in public policy debates; her commentaries have published in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the Sunday Times, the Independent, and Dissent.

A Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford University, she was named one of Canada's 'Top 40 under 40' in 2011. In 2014, Dr. Bakker became a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s New College of Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. 

Dr. Bakker is currently a Cox Visiting Professor at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; and concurrently holds the Annenberg Fellowship in Communication at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

John has over 40 years’ experience of leading, operating and investing in water and wastewater companies. He works with fellow water entrepreneurs to develop sector-leading technology, products and services that make a difference in the world. He works with our partner companies to provide a knowledge base, industry partnerships, and investment capital to enterprises poised for growth. John is an expert on business operations, helping businesses rapidly scale their operations for long-term success.

John was one of the earliest employees of ZENON Environmental, and as President and Chief Operating Officer, he helped grow the company from start-up to over $146M in revenue, with a market capitalization of $700M. Upon leaving ZENON he was awarded the “Architect of ZENON Award” to recognize his efforts in building the company into a world leader in water treatment. ZENON was acquired by GE in 2006 for $640M USD.

John’s water expertise began during the first 10 years of his career with Environment Canada, where he held various technical and senior management roles. He published over 20 scientific research papers and journal articles related to water treatment and its impact on the environment. To honour his service and commitment to excellence during his tenure at Environment Canada, he was awarded the prestigious “Government of Canada Merit Award”.

John is currently a Director of FilterBoxx Water & Environmental Corp., and Natural Systems Utilities, LLC. He is also an advisor to the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute.

John holds a B.Sc. with Honours in Chemistry from the University of Waterloo, and a C.Dir. (Chartered Director) from the McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, Director’s College program.

Professor Wheater holds the positions of Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security and Director, Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and Distinguished Research Fellow and Emeritus Professor of Hydrology at Imperial College London, United Kingdom (UK). He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the American Geophysical Union, and winner of the 2006 Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water. He has been extensively involved in climate change research and associated adaptation studies, and led major UK initiatives into the impacts of agricultural land management on hydrology and flood risk and the hydro-ecological functioning of lowland catchments. He co-chairs UNESCO’s GWADI arid zone water programme and was until 2014 Vice-Chair of the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Global Energy and Water Experiment (GEWEX). He is currently adviser to the State of Nevada, USA concerning a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

He has a wide international experience in advising various governments and international agencies on issues of flood, water resource and water quality studies, including the Middle East, Far East, Africa and South America, as well as Europe. He has represented Hungary and Argentina at the International Court of Justice, and recently was a member of a Court of Arbitration in a dispute between Pakistan and India concerning the Indus Waters Treaty.

Canada is at the forefront of Global Warming, which is creating significant changes to snow vs. rain dynamics, retreating of glaciers and thawing of permafrost leading to significant changes in cold region hydrological cycle.  To understand, diagnose and predict changing land, water and climate, and their interactions and feedbacks Prof. Wheater has led creation of the Saskatchewan River Basin (SaskRB; 406,000 km2) and Mackenzie River Basin (MRB; 1.8 million km2) as Regional Hydroclimate Programmes with the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX) project.

Prof. Wheater has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed journal papers, 5 books, and 28 book chapters, and supervised some 60 PhD and 100 MSc students. In the UK he was a member of the 2004 and 2008 Foresight Future Flooding teams, a member of the 2008 Cabinet Office flood enquiry, and contributor to a Land Use Futures Foresight study. In Canada, he chaired the Council of Canadian Academies expert panel on Water and Agriculture in Canada.