Canadian Living : Water conservation: Why Canada needs a national strategy

Millions of Canadians face water shortages every year. Find out why we need a national strategy to conserve this essential resource.

By Adria Vasil (Ecoholic author) Water conservation

Living in Canada, we tend to have a certain cockiness about our water supply. We know we’re swimming in the stuff – I mean, hey, we have 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water. But what we don’t realize is that we have only 7 per cent of the globe’s renewable water; the rest is glacial stuff left over from the ice ages, according to Environment Canada. And what good will our fresh lake water do us if it’s thoroughly contaminated? The life-giving liquid becomes especially precious when you consider that a third of the world’s population doesn’t have enough. That’s a position we weren’t expected to be in until 2025, but a report released in the summer of 2006 by the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka says we’re already there. While Canada’s thirst might not seem as dramatic as, say, Africa’s, one in five Canadian municipalities have experienced shortages of late and have had to ask residents to curb use.

The Prairies have been hit hard by drought, and the future is not bright for the region, which scientists, like the University of Alberta’s David Schindler, say is fast becoming a dust bowl (it doesn’t help that oil sands extraction and livestock are both extremely water intensive). Our water supply is also under serious threat from industrial pollution, invasive species and water exports to the U.S.

Action Needed: The Council of Canadians insists that we need a new national water strategy to make sure the resource is adequately protected:

  • Canada must ban the export of water outright.
  • We need national water conservation plans (after all, we manage to suck back more water per capita than any nation in the world other than the U.S.).
  • We need national clean drinking water standards (so we don’t see another Walkerton)
  • [we need] nationwide policies about making water bottlers pay for the H2O they take from our taps and springs and then charge us two bucks for.

The feds have long had a laissez-faire attitude around protection of the Great Lakes and other shared water bodies, for which bulk water takings and pollution are joint responsibilities. Too many loopholes in existing regulations mean that we’re slowly draining our water supply, drop by drop.

The bottom line? Canada needs to recognize that access to safe water is a human rightwe were the only country to vote against giving water this designation at the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2002


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