Canada isn’t protecting most valuable resource

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Shawville was under a boil water advisory for almost three months (September 9 to November 30) of this year. While town officials dealt with the interruption as urgently as possible, the incident leaves one wondering about our clean water

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Shawville was under a boil water advisory for almost three months (September 9 to November 30) of this year. While town officials dealt with the interruption as urgently as possible, the incident leaves one wondering about our clean water
supply. Canada has the world’s largest supply of fresh water, but let us look at all the numbers.
At a first glance, Canada, with one-half of 1% of the population of the planet, has 20% of this planet’s fresh water supply. Much of this water is, however, non-renewable, as only 7% of the global supply is renewable. Most of our fresh water is fossil water retained in lakes, underground aquifers, and glaciers. Further, more than half of our renewable water drains north into the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay. This water is thus unavailable to the 85% of Canadians who live within 300 kilometers of our southern border. In too many settled communities, the water is polluted and potable (usable) only after costly treatment.
Our clean water systems are under threat from aging infrastructure,
climate change, contamination from pollutants, boundary issues with the United States and in some rare cases, natural forces. Excessive use of water resources may be added to this list: annual per capita water consumption in Canada is 1,400,000 litres. For comparison, the numbers for Germany are 430,000 and for Denmark, 120,000 litres. Of these threats, those deemed most significant are aging infastructure and contamination from pollutants.
Fixing our aging infrastructure would cost 50 billion dollars. This is certainly a costly undertaking, but compared with the more than $300 billion the federal government has spent on the COVID-19 crisis, is certainly feasible. The alternative is increasingly long and more numerous boil water advisories. The experiences many First Nations continue to have with long-standing water advisories should act as an indicator to all of us.  Imagine dealing with a 25-year boil water advisory!
Some causes of water pollution include physical debris such as plastics,
rubber tires, chemical runoff from factories, farms, cities, cars, sewage treatment facilities, and air pollution. But all of these can be controlled by legislation and education. The major barrier to tackling water pollution seems to be the varied and conflicting approaches taken by local, regional, provincial, and federal agencies. But given the seriousness of the problem, could we not have one Water Commission that would have the authority to ensure the various levels of government and private interests are coordinated toward the achievable goal of ensuring water resources are protected?
Despite, or perhaps because of, our abundance of water, Canada is not a water secure country. We put much emphasis on climate change; and this is a major issue. But we cannot afford to ignore or minimize water issues. Life, all life, depends on water! And Canada is not protecting this resource. We will have to deal with a water crisis years before living with the effects of climate change.