Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

A replica of a titanosaur. AIZAR RALDES / AFP via Getty Images

New fossils uncovered in Argentina may belong to one of the largest animals to have walked on Earth.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Trump's Affordable Clean Energy rule eliminated a provision mandating that utilities move away from coal. VisionsofAmerica /Joe Sohm / Getty Images

A federal court on Tuesday struck down the Trump administration's rollback of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A wild mink in Utah was the first wild animal in the U.S. found with COVID-19. Peter Trimming via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

By Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found coronavirus infections in pet cats and dogs and in multiple zoo animals, including big cats and gorillas. These infections have even happened when staff were using personal protective equipment.

Read More Show Less
A mass methane release could begin an irreversible path to full land-ice melt. NurPhoto / Contributor / Getty Images

By Peter Giger

The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.

Read More Show Less
Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.

Read More Show Less