Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

David Suzuki: World Water Day Reminds Us Not to Take Clean Water for Granted

Insights + Opinion
David Suzuki: World Water Day Reminds Us Not to Take Clean Water for Granted

Earth’s oceans, lakes, rivers and streams are its circulatory system, providing life’s essentials for people, animals and ecosystems. Canada has one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, a quarter of its remaining wetlands and its longest coastline. With this abundance, it’s easy to take water for granted. Many of our daily rituals require its life-giving force. Yet do we recognize our good fortune in having clean, safe water at the turn of a tap?

Not everyone in Canada is so lucky. On any given day, more than 1,000 boil-water advisories are in place across the country. Imagine having to walk to your local church every morning to fill plastic jugs with clean drinking water for your family. Or having to drive to your town’s fire station or community center to collect bottled water. Imagine having to boil water for everything you do at home—cooking, cleaning, washing. This is the sad reality for people who live in communities with boil-water advisories, some for decades at a time.

Water problems are dangerous. In May 2000, bacteria in Walkerton, Ontario’s water supply caused seven deaths and more than 2,300 illnesses. A public inquiry blamed the crisis on flaws in the province’s approval and inspection programs, a “lack of training and expertise” among water-supply operators and government budget cuts.

In 2001, nearly half of North Battleford, Saskatchewan’s 14,000 residents became ill from contaminated water. An inquiry concluded provincial oversight was inadequate and ineffective.

Indigenous communities continue to face a widespread drinking water crisis, with people on First Nations reserves 90 times more likely than other Canadians to lack access to clean water.

Health Canada reports that 131 drinking-water advisories were in effect in 87 Indigenous communities at the end of 2015, not including British Columbia. Places like Shoal Lake 40, Grassy Narrows and Neskantaga have been under boil-water advisories for decades. In British Columbia, the First Nations Health Authority reports that 28 drinking-water advisories were in effect in 25 Indigenous communities as of Jan. 31.

How can this continue in a water-rich country like Canada?

Canada recognized the right to water at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012. Yet our government has failed to live up to its commitment. As a 2015 UN report points out, “The global water crisis is one of governance, much more than of resource availability and this is where the bulk of the action is required in order to achieve a water secure world.”

We are the only G8 country and one of just two Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, without legally enforceable national drinking-water-quality standards. Federal water policy is more than 25 years old and in dire need of revision. We have no national strategy to address urgent water issues and no federal leadership to conserve and protect water. Instead, we rely on a patchwork of provincial water policies, some enshrined in law and some not. Meanwhile, highly intensive industrial activities, agribusiness and pollution are putting water supplies at risk.

The federal government will deliver its first budget on March 22—World Water Day. The David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot movement is also taking a stand on World Water Day, helping communities across Canada call on the federal government to make good on our human right to clean water by enacting a federal environmental bill of rights.

Canada’s environment and climate change minister has a mandate to “treat our freshwater as a precious resource that deserves protection and careful stewardship.” The government could take a big step toward accomplishing this by recognizing our right to a healthy environment, including our right to clean water.

The government should also implement legally binding national standards for drinking water quality equal to or better than the highest standards in other industrialized nations and set long-term targets and timelines to reduce water pollution. And it should fulfil our right to water by addressing the drinking water crisis in Indigenous communities and establishing a Canada Water Fund to foster the clean-water tech industry and create a robust national water quality and quantity monitoring system.

Committing to these actions would help ensure all Canadians have access to clean, safe water for generations to come. On World Water Day, help protect the people and places you love by joining the Blue Dot movement.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

The Nature Conservancy and Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Unite to Create Second Largest Marine Protected Area in West Indian Ocean

10 Stunning Images Show Human’s Huge Impact on the Earth

Bolivia’s Second-Largest Lake Dries Up: Is Utah’s Great Salt Lake Next?

Ocean ‘Artivist’ Creates Breathtaking Coral Reef Sculptures

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A resident works in the vegetable garden of the Favela Nova Esperanca – a "green favela" which reuses everything and is subject to the ethics of permaculture – in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 14, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP via Getty Images

Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.

Read More Show Less
Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less