Fresh water scarcity is an issue in Canada too

by Jim Warren, originally posted on September 24, 2016


Canadians have access to so much cheap and plentiful fresh water that we take for granted how valuable it is and have failed to protect our most important and essential natural resource.

A move earlier this year to divert fresh water from the Great Lakes to a Wisconsin town is the thin edge of the wedge and needs to be stopped.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barak Obama need to intervene in the political process to protect the use of our shared fresh water.

Further, the provinces need to charge private sector companies who sell our ground water a fair and reasonable fee.

Fresh water is becoming more scarce and valuable. While over 70% of the world is covered in water – only 2% of that is fresh water.

According to the United Nations Human Development Report: “1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage.”

It goes on to say: “Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and, although there is no global water scarcity as such, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water. Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon.”

Most Canadians don’t realize that, globally, water is a scare resource.

Canada has 7% of the world’s renewable fresh water supply but only 0.49% of the world’s total population. We have so much water we don’t realize its importance.

We also waste a lot of it. We are one of the highest per capita users of water in the world – our residential water use per person per day is 251 litres.

Further, we do not pay the true cost of water. In fact, 44% of Canadian do not even have a metered water supply.

Canada and the United States share access to the greatest single source of fresh water in the world, the Great Lakes. These together hold 20% of the world’s fresh water.

These aren’t a renewable source of fresh water – it’s water left over from melted glaciers. As such Ontario, Quebec and the Great Lake states reached a compact in 2008 that prohibits cities that are not adjacent to the lakes from diverting water to them.

But this summer the eight states agreed to allow Waukesha, Wisconsin to start diverting fresh water from Lake Michigan.

One hundred and twenty three mayors from both the U.S. and Canada are calling on Trudeau and Obama to intervene to protect the fresh water supply. They’re concerned about what will happen if more cities draw on fresh water from the Great Lakes, which are already at historic low levels.

They need to heed the call of these mayors and stop Waukesha from taking Great Lakes water.

Canadians also need to realize the impact bottled water companies are having on ground water levels.

In Ontario, for example, the government only charges the private sector $3.71 for every million litres of water they take and sell to consumers. Since that fee won’t buy you most drinks at Starbucks – why can a private sector company get a million litres for the same cost?

Canada collects appropriate taxes on oil and lumber – we need to do the same for water.

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