A Walk on H2O & Joules: Exploring the connection in Toronto’s Landscape

Walk on Water 4

Building on the momentum of our last 7 (indoor) events in our Learning Lab series on complexity & innovative leadership around water & energy in Ontario, and in partnership with Lost Rivers, we finally broke free!

On Saturday April 20th in downtown Toronto,  we went on a walk like no other, to physically explore the secret life of water in the city and its intersection with energy. We revisited sites and images of the past exhibiting the dramatic changes that transformed Ontario into Canada’s industrial “powerhouse”.

40 guests joined us (thank you for braving the chilling winds!) and were led by Helen Mills, Founder of Lost Rivers and co-led by Mariko Uda, who assisted in authoring Riversides Report on the energy footprint of Toronto’s water.  We definitely had a well of knowledge at our fingertips assisted by historical architecture. We also teamed up on a #CreativityChallenge with @WCIWToronto #WCIW (World Creativity & Innovation Week) who planted post-it notes along our route to heighten our creativity on this walk!
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What did we learn?

  • We passed through several lost creeks: Victoria, Court, Newgate and Russell
  • We made a stop at the Bay Adelaide Centre to learn it was LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified and collects rainwater for use in its main floor toilets and to water 100% of outside landscape.
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  • We discovered that the water footprint of luxury tourism is 1200 litres** per person per day. The Shangri La Hotel was able to reduce its water footprint to 900+ from 1200+ litres per day worldwide yet the Trump Tower has no sustainability program.

**compared with average use in the City of Toronto of 253 litres per person per day and in Mozambique of 4 litres per day!

  • The Enwave Pearl Street Steam Plant was Toronto Hydro’s first “district heating” plant when it opened in 1964, and is now part of the largest system in Canada.
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  • John St Pumping Station was Toronto’s first station built in 1841 to pump water from the bay- less than a block away from the outfall of an old sewer system!
  • Salmon Run at the CN Tower- the fountain depicts 60 salmon swimming upstream through a barrier of reeds and eelgrass and represents salmon spawning in the Great Lakes. It is meant to remind us of the impacts of urban development on natural habitat. Ironically enough, the fountain was dry and surrounded by a large scale construction project across from it- to build Ripley’s Aquarium!
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  • We spoke about Line 9 reversal- a close to home pipeline concern- running between Sarnia & Montreal and passing through Toronto just north of Finch Ave. Proposals for its reversal have been partially approved, to transport raw material (“super-hot sandpaper”) from AB to Portland, Maine. If old pipes leak, the corrosive mixture threatens 3 water tables as it crosses 3 major rivers leading to Lake Ontario- the source of our drinking water. Line 9 also crosses the G. Ross Lord Reservoir near Dufferin & Finch.

A call to action on this journey was to think more creatively about ways to balance development, economy and environmental protection. How can we move beyond mere ‘approval’ or ‘opposition’ and begin to shift the system in an innovative fashion towards a sustainable water & energy future? What are the innovative ideas brewing? Who do we need to involve? How long will it take us?

It can be as simple a starting point as this: Image. “buy a coffee for a stranger” and you’ll make unexpected connections.

PS: Congrats to the winners of the Trivia Hunt- a hard tie between team Selina, Olivia, Kalson and Korice and team Shishir, Beth, and Nigel! & a special thanks to Korice Moir for the photos shared on this blog. A Huge thank you to Helen and Uda for sharing their knowledge with us!

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