Robert Sandford

Robert SandfordBased in Canmore, Alberta, Robert Sandford is a leading thinker on water issues in Canada. Sandford is Director of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative, and an associate of the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan. He is co-chair of the Forum for Leadership on Water, a national research group based in Toronto, as well as EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative under the United Nations “Water for Life” Decade. Sandford also serves as an advisor on water issues to the InterAction Council, a global public policy think-tank composed of more than twenty former Heads of State.

He has written numerous books on water issues in Canada, including his latest book, Cold Matters – The State and Fate of Canada’s Freshwater, which was published in November 2012.


Summit Presentation

Title: Come Hell & High Water: The Social, Economic and Political Consequences of Hydrologic Change


Research scientists had already identified the effects increasing atmospheric temperatures were having on the global hydrological cycle long before the great floods in Canada in 2013. Hydrologists, not just in Canada but worldwide, have been reporting an observed acceleration of the rate and manner in which water moves through the global hydrological cycle for more than a decade. Hydro-climatic change, however, is no longer an abstract or theoretical concept if you have been directly affected by the increase in the duration and intensity of extreme weather events.

In this presentation, one of Canada’s most respected water policy experts will explain what is happening to the hydrological cycle in Canada and globally by way of the very personal impacts that recent disastrous flooding had on his colleagues, neighbours, friends and family in and near his hometown of Canmore. This presentation begins with an extraordinary minute by minute account that chronicles what happened in Canmore and downstream in Calgary and in unprepared surrounding communities in southern Alberta as the rain began to fall and the water rose in what became the greatest disaster in the province’s history. The presentation then carefully examines the public policy consequences of the loss of hydrological stationarity on the stability of regional and national economies; agricultural productivity; the energy sector; the insurance and real estate industries; municipal governments; people on the margins in society; and on politics and political leadership. The presentation concludes with the lessons we need to learn locally and nationally from extreme weather events in order to protect our economy and the environment upon which our prosperity will continue to depend now and in the future.