Ed Quilty looking through a water glass.

Geek Speak: Edward Quilty, CEO of Aquatic Informatics

September 23, 2011 – Article by Stephen Hui, web and technology editor for the Georgia Straight

Edward Quilty is the founder, president, and CEO of Vancouver-based Aquatic Informatics.

Edward Quilty says his Vancouver-based company is the “best in the world at determining how much water is in a river”. The 39-year-old West Vancouver resident is the founder, president, and CEO of Aquatic Informatics.

Aquatic Informatics is the company behind the Aquarius water data management and analysis software. Aquarius is used by government agencies around the world to figure out how much water is in rivers and lakes, and to track that over time. The software is also used to manage data on water quality.

Born in Port Alberni, Quilty was trained as an aquatic ecologist and worked for the B.C. environment ministry as pollution-prevention biologist. He started Aquatic Informatics in 2003 while studying at the University of British Columbia. The company now has a staff of 35.

The Georgia Straight reached Quilty by phone at his office in downtown Vancouver.

What does Aquatic Informatics do?

We make Aquarius software, which is used by government agencies to manage and analyze water data, from rivers primarily.

How is your Aquarius software used to improve water quality?

Well, it’s used in a monitoring sense. Our biggest customers are Environment Canada, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. park service. Those are examples of more than 200 agencies using the software. They help protect water quality by monitoring it continuously and trying to assess water quality and, if there are water-quality problems, the data can be used for compliance monitoring. So, if there is a pulp mill or some type of factory, if they are discharging pollution into the river, that can be measured and the companies can potentially be charged for those pollution events. So, it’s sort of for policing water quality in rivers and lakes.

How big is the market for this kind of software?

The water market in general is $400 billion and growing to $1.6 trillion over the next eight years. So, the water market in general is massive. Our market, more specifically, is growing at the same rate, but much smaller. It’s about $200 million a year, and we’re expecting it to quadruple over the next eight years.

What’s an example of a situation where your software was used in a case of really bad water quality?

Well, it’s actually used more on the water-quantity side. For example, two of our recent new customers are the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There was massive flooding in those provinces this past spring. So, more typically, our software is used for continually monitoring the water level and flow in rivers for looking at the impact of floods, for evacuating trailer parks, or whatever. So, pretty much every spring, our software is used throughout North America to analyze floods.

What are your thoughts on what some say is a looming global water crisis?

No question, there’s some interesting stats out there. More than 40 percent of the world’s population is in a water-stressed area or an area of water scarcity. The stat I always find interesting is more than 50 percent of the hospital beds in the world are filled by people who are sick from water-related diseases. Those problems are getting much worse with climate change in general. We kind of tap into two areas. One where there’s not enough, so water scarcity, or flooding. Both seem to be getting worse with climate change. There’s longer and more droughts, and there also seems to be more intense flooding.

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