Henning Bjornlund holds two academic positions; he is a Canada Research Chair in Water Policy and Management at University of Lethbridge and a Professor at the University of South Australia. He has researched water policy and management issues in Australia since 1993 and in Canada since 2005. He recently served on the Ministers Advisory Group on Water Allocation and Management in Alberta. Henning has written widely about water policy and management issues with more than 275 publications and presentations. In 2008 the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in London published his report Water Scarcity and its implication for land management - Some lessons from Australia. In 2010 his new edited book Incentives and Instruments for Sustainable Irrigation was published, the C.D. Howe institute, an influential policy think-tank in Toronto, released his Commentary: Sustainable Water management - Striking the balance between social, environmental and economic needs, and the Wessex Institute of technology in Southampton, UK awarded him their Eminent Scientist Medal for his outstanding contribution to water resources.
Prior to starting my first academic degree in 1990 I was the managing director for a company operating tropical plantations in South and Central America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. As part of this work I bought properties and negotiated access rights to water to grow bananas, citrus, rice and other tropical crops highly dependent on water.
During my bachelor degree I had to do a third year research project, I chose to concentrate my research project on the impact of water policy on rural land values. This required a careful study of the literature on water markets and water rights. I continued this theme into my Masters by Research program which ended up as my PhD.
Water is probably the most important and valuable resource in the world. All human activity depends on it in one form or another. It is available in a finite quantity and has a finite ability to assimilate waste. Most human and economic activity is some way impact on water quality and the availability of water. Human activities have had a serious impact of water bodies and the ecosystems dependent on them and as a result many rivers and their ecosystems are suffering resulting in poor water quality and in many cases rivers do not any longer reach the ocean or terminal lakes. Our health, wellbeing, enjoyment, and quality of life could be threatened by this. Policy makers around the world are trying to come to terms with how to reverse this trend of environmental degradation, how to continue our human activities while minimizing our impact, how to use less water, how to be more efficient, how to produce more from less water, how to share the limited resources. All of these issues are central to my research.
The greatest honor and privilege that I can receive as an academic is invitations to contribute to policy making or the development professional standards or contribute to public debate and awareness. Hence invitations to serve on the Ministers Advisory Group on a new Water Management and Allocation framework for Alberta, an invitation from the C.D. Howe institute to produce a policy commentary to contribute to the debate on water management and policy in Alberta, an invitation from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in London to write a policy document to informs its 140,000 members worldwide on the implications of changing water policies for property professionals and an subsequent invitation to be on RICS Working Group on the Valuation of Water. This group produced a valuation methodology that can be adopted into RICS Valuation Standards and used for regulated purposes, e.g. lending, accounting and appraisal. Is among the greatest honours I have received.
Student participation is an integral part of my research program. I currently have seven PhD students and five Masters Students in Canada and Australia working on various issues related to water policy and management and thereby contributing in various ways to answering the research questions that I am working on under various grants in Canada and Australia. Apart from answering pressing questions about how to resolve the worlds growing water problems a very important task is the building of human capacity to deal with these issues. Due to the rapidly escalating water problems in our society policy changes have been ongoing and the challenge of involving the public in water management and allocation issues growing. As a consequence there is an acute shortage of professions with skills within the social sciences. Hence, student training in this area is very important.
The issue of how to share limited resources is one of the most challenging facing policy makers and water managers. This is a very complicated issue and an issue with far reaching consequences for people who are currently having the right to use water and have invested a lot of time and money to be able to do so. Hence, any change in the way water is allocated can potentially have significant socio-economic impact on the current generation of water users, not least irrigators as well at the communities currently depending on water use as the economic engine of their community. If I had unlimited funds I would like to conduct a Canada wide investigation of how people perceive that such reallocation should take place, how such perception varies across Canada and what causes such variation. Such insight would assist the development of a national water plan or policy which currently is absent as well as the development of provincial plans.
"Troubled Waters" Lethbridge Herald September 1, 2011
"Bjornlund study examines water management" Legend May 2010
"The tricky relationship between farming and water" FIAT Winter 2009
"What makes the relationship between farming and water so tricky?" Journal University of Lethbridge Alumni magazine Spring 2009 (see p. 6)
"Water could be factor in determining city's growth" Lethbridge Herald June 12, 2007
"A glimps of water's future" Lethbridge Herald November 9, 2005
"New Canada Research Chair announced" University of Lethbridge notice board, April 22, 2005
"Canada can learn from Aussie water allocation system" Lethbridge Herald, September 30, 2003