Sorry for the bad pun – my excuse is that today is World Water Day!
Consider all the ways you used water today. If you live in North America, by now you will have probably flushed a toilet a few times, had a shower, run a tap, and drunk one or more glasses of it. In my part of the world, I’ve walked on a frozen form of water, snow, as I brought my garbage to the road, and when I go to town later on I might walk on the frozen lake.
It’s easy for those of us who just need to turn on a tap to get water to take it for granted, yet water is an amazing substance. It is the only substance on earth that is found naturally in three different forms – liquid, gas (water vapour), and solid (ice and snow). All living things depend on water to support life. And yet, almost all of the water on earth is not useable because it’s salty ocean water.
Earth has been called the “blue planet” because so much of it is covered with water. But almost all of the water on this “blue planet” isn’t drinkable because it’s too salty. To give you an idea of how much water on earth there is that humans and other living beings can use, try this demo at home. Fill up a one liter container with water. Then, take 30 milliliters (about 2 tablespoons) out of that one liter container and put it in a small bowl. This represents how much fresh water there is on earth. Pour salt into the water left in the one liter container – this is now like most of the water on earth, too salty for humans to use. Next, take a teaspoon out of the bowl of “fresh water” and place it in another small container. That teaspoon represents the amount of the world’s fresh water that is not frozen – about 0.6% of the total water on earth. But not even all of this water is on the surface – take an eyedropper, and take out one drop of water from the teaspoon. This one drop represents the clean, fresh water on earth that is not polluted, frozen, or underground!
As you can see, if all beings depend on water for life, and only a very small percentage of water on earth is available to use, then it is important that the precious “drop” of water is used wisely so all 6.6 billion people on earth, as well as all the other living creatures, have water to drink and use!
My family and I are lucky to live on a lake in northern Ontario, and our community is surrounded by lots of lakes and rivers. Yet, in northern Canada there are over 100 First Nations communities that lack access to clean potable water and adequate sanitation. And in Alberta, the tar sands are consuming fresh water from the Athabasca River at an alarming rate; it takes 3 – 5 barrels of fresh water to produce one barrel of tar sands oil. The toxic tailing ponds that result are so large they can be seen from outer space, and First Nation communities downstream of tar sands operation have been experiencing unprecedented rates of bile and colon cancer, lupus and other diseased that they believe are attributable to tar sands. What are we thinking when we use up this precious resource like there’s no tomorrow?
Boiling Point: Profiles 6 Canadian First Nation Communities facing a water crisis.