Food and drink 

Water, water, everywhere — for some. World Water Day slips by unnoticed as water pressures mount

Water, water, everywhere — or at least in Canada it seems it is, especially here on the Wet Coast where, unlike Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poor, becalmed ancient mariner, we have plenty of drops to drink. Or at least we act like we do.

For we Canucks have a predilection for taking water for granted, as if our very Canadianess depends on it, while each of us uses an atrocious 1,600 cubic metres of water per year, twice the rate of people in France, four times as much as the average Swede, and more than eight times more than the average Dane.

It seems we can barely picture how to adjust to a world that’s otherwise, and all this against a backdrop of world need for fresh water going through the roof while supplies dwindle.

I was thinking about all this on the 30th anniversary of the UN’s World Water Day, which is supposed to get people thinking about water and its very preciousness. The day just passed by, largely unnoticed, on March 20. (Usually World Water Day is March 22, but it was changed this year because it’s part of the UN’s Year of Sanitation.)

Given Canada’s abysmal   — embarrassing? — water usage, I’d say we have much to ponder. According to a University of Victoria study by David Boyd comparing Canada’s environmental performance to other industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), we’re pretty pathetic in many arenas, especially water use.

Since 1980, overall water use in Canada has increased by 25.7 per cent — five times higher than the overall OECD increase of 4.5 per cent. By contrast, nine OECD nations were able to decrease their overall water use since 1980: Sweden, the Netherlands, the U.S., U.K., Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland, Finland and Denmark.

So we can’t argue that we’re too big, or too small, or too poor, or too rich to do so. Not to put politicians in the hot seat or make you feel bad that you didn’t put a low-flush toilet or low-flow showerhead in that new house you just built, but come on, Canada, what’s our excuse?

Then there’s the future. Even if you only occasionally tune into world news, you can’t help but know that climate change has already started putting pressure on all sorts of things, including fresh water supplies, in many parts of the world, like our neighbouring prairie provinces and the U.S.


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