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Karen Bakker, Director, Program on Water Governance, and Associate Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

University of British Columbia

Each year, Caldwell Partners International chooses 40 Canadians who were under 40 in the past year to honour for their outstanding achievements. Click here to learn more about the program, and find more winners in the list below.

Canadians have taken water for granted for too long, warns Karen Bakker, geography professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the country's foremost experts on water governance.

"Canadians are just waking up to the fact that we do not have unlimited access to water," Dr. Bakker says. In some parts of the country, including the prairies and B.C.'s Okanagan Valley, "the squeeze is already being felt," she adds. Water quantity and quality are serious issues on many First Nations reserves and, as a resource, water remains greatly under-regulated in Canada, she argues.

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Dr. Bakker was born in Montreal and raised in Ottawa. She completed her undergraduate studies at McMaster University in Hamilton. She was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1995 to study at the University of Oxford in England.

It was there that she turned her attention to the study of water management. "I felt that it was likely that some of the most pressing challenges we would face politically and environmentally in Canada over the next few decades would be related to water," she says. At the same time, the water crisis in many developing countries was also becoming apparent, she adds.

After completing her doctorate in 1999 and then a postdoctoral fellowship, also at Oxford, Dr. Bakker took up her post as a geography professor at the University of British Columbia in 2002. Three years later, she founded the university's Program on Water Governance, an interdisciplinary research centre that conducts research on water sustainability, security and management. She remains the centre's director.

The Vancouver resident also holds a Canada Research Chair in Political Ecology and is an associate of UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, which focuses on environmental research. She sits on the editorial boards of several academic journals and has written extensively about water governance and security, including three books. Her most recent, Privatizing Water: Governance Failure and the World's Urban Water Crisis, was published in 2010 and deals with the growing water crisis in developing countries. She has served as an adviser to numerous national and international agencies, including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Conference Board of Canada, the United Nations Development Program, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and several government departments.

Research into water management helped spur a broader interest in environmental issues, which Dr. Bakker incorporates in both her professional and personal life.

She is married and has two young daughters, both budding environmentalists. "They are very good at reminding me to turn off the tap while I'm brushing my teeth," says Dr. Bakker. Her hobbies include swimming and yoga and most days she cycles to work with her youngest daughter in tow. She also volunteers for various community groups.

More winners:

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  • Karen Bakker, 39
  • Keith Bilous, 39
  • Leonard Brody, 39
  • Naman Budhdeo, 38
  • Michael Burns, 39
  • Craig Campbell, 34
  • Norie Campbell, 39
  • Jody Campeau, 39
  • Cody Church, 39
  • Brian Coombes, 36
  • Matthew Corrin, 29
  • Frederick Dryden, 39
  • Dominic Giroux, 35
  • Deirdre Horgan, 38
  • Kyle Jeworski, 36
  • Nicholas Johnson, 38
  • Dr. Kirsten Johnson, 39
  • Kevin Li, 39
  • Stewart Lyons, 37
  • Muhammad Mamdani, 39
  • Andy McCreath, 35, and Christian Darbyshire, 35
  • Calvin McDonald, 39
  • Duke McKenzie, 35
  • Glori Meldrum, 37
  • Michele Mosca, 39
  • Suresh Narine, 39
  • Sean O'Reilly, 36
  • John Poulos, 36
  • Andrew Reid, 34
  • Gregory Roberts, 38
  • Angela Santiago, 39
  • Bradley Schwartz, 39
  • Leerom Segal, 31
  • Som Seif, 34
  • Natasha Sharpe, 39
  • Andrew Smith, 38
  • Steve Sousa, 39
  • Marie-Pier St-Hilaire, 33
  • David Vocadlo, 37
  • Nolan Watson, 31
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