Right now, on World Water Day on March 22, the United Nations has concluded that there is an international water crisis, and the principal failing is one of governance. Despite having an abundance of water for its size, Canada is not immune to this failing.
Dr. Kevin Quigley and his colleagues at Dalhousie University recently published a report which raises alarms about our water infrastructure and governance. In an article summarizing the risks Canada faces he states:
“Our freshwater systems are under strain from threats of aging infrastructure, climate change causing floods and droughts, cyberattacks, transboundary conflicts with the U.S., contamination due to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the sale of water to foreign markets.”
However, organizations and people across Canada are fighting for proper management of our water resources. Here are some of the campaigns:
1. World Water Day is meant to ensure that everybody has access to safe, drinkable water. It is shameful that in Canada today, 79 First Nations communities continue to have boil water advisories. The federal government plan to ensure potable water in all First Nations communities has been deemed inadequate by the David Suzuki Foundation and leaders in First Nations communities. The Council of Canadians has been raising the alarm that the federal government may privatize water provision in First Nations communities. We need to make sure that any strategy to address this crisis does not make matters worse and diminish local control.
2. Recently the rabble podcast network featured a story about Mikmaq water protectors who are blocking the Alton Natural Gas Storage project in Nova Scotia, a project which could pave the way to reintroducing fracking in the province. Track the campaign and support the blockade here.
In Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, the township of Ristigouche Sud-Est, a township of 157 people, passed a bylaw in 2013 that set out a two-kilometre no-drill zone around its water supply and, recently, a Quebec Superior Court judge supported the right of the township to protect its water resources. However, the fight is not over because Quebec’s controversial Petroleum Resources Act remains on the books. Read Équiterre’s report about the Quebec government’s hydrocarbon subsidies and work with them to demand change.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, there is an inquiry into the cost overruns in the Muskrat Falls project but many environmental concerns are being ignored and the commissioner has stated that the inquiry cannot shut the project down. This is not enough and the Muskrat Falls Land Protectors continue to fight to stop Muskrat Falls.
There are fights like this raging across Canada and the Council of Canadians has been an important voice protecting our water. Track campaigns to support on their website.
3. Stop bottled water companies like Nestlé from exploiting our water resources and pumping millions of litres of groundwater every year from aquifers across Canada. Even though the public in both British Columbia and Ontario are opposed to permits for bottled water companies, the company continues to find ways to exploit water resources. Take the Boycott Nestlé Pledge here.
4. Protect public water resources. The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90 per cent contained tiny pieces of plastic, significantly higher than the plastic particles found in North American tap water. We have to stop buying bottled water.
As we demand safe, accessible water for all, we must ensure local control over the water infrastructure in our communities. The Canadian Infrastructure Bank proposal has been hijacked by investment firms and threatens to grow the role of the private sector in public infrastructure. Water across Canada needs to be safe and publicly provided. We must protect our all lakes and rivers and we must protect public goods and ensure that our tap water is of the best possible quality.
Image credit: Albert Lozada/Flickr