Thursday, March 23, 2017

Water Justice

First Nations Water
Yesterday was United Nations World Water Day and there was plenty in the news about the ongoing challenge of providing clean water. We are reminded that at least 800 millions people, the majority in developing nations around the world, don't have access to clean water. It may actually be twice that number.

Canadians brag about how much fresh water we have, regularly over-estimating how much of the world's supply is contained within our borders. We have some of the largest lakes on the planet within Canada, or we share them with the United States.

The wonderful reality is that we can turn on the tap and expect the water which flows to be immediately drinkable. We can bathe in it and use it for a variety of purposes.

The exception to this is for First Nations where, as the image above suggests, about three quarters do not have access to contaminant-free water. Although this graphic is several years old, boil-water orders are still in effect across the country.
Image result for first nations water crisis canada

I certainly believe that as a wealthy nation Canada should be involved in water projects in developing nations as an aspect of foreign aid. It must also be a high priority to get our own house in order. There is growing concern that the Federal government is distancing itself from this responsibility for clean, safe water on First Nations by contracting with for-profit, private companies to provide it.

There was an interesting letter to the editor in the Globe and Mail newspaper yesterday:

Bottled-up  inequities
Re Stuck On The Bottle (Life & Arts, March 22): Since NestlĂ© leads the Canadian bottled-water industry, which generates “$2.5-billion in annual sales,” perhaps the company could send bottled water (complimentary?) to our First Nations that do not have safe drinking water.
It is a travesty that our government has allowed these areas to suffer with contaminated water, while companies such as Nestlé are raking in billions of dollars as they usurp our precious resource.
Jeffrey Manly, Toronto

Inter-denominational organizations such as KAIROS have been raising concerns about First Nations water issues for years, as a matter of justice, and I'm glad that our United Church is part of this coalition.


roger said...

Yes, we take water for granted. I was reminded of that this past weekend, as several younger family members joined us at our household. I didn't sit outside the bathroom with a stopwatch, but I'm guessing they averaged half an hour for a shower!

Having lived on a northern reserve in Saskatchewan, I was never able to drink the tap water. I had a 400 gallon water tank in my basement, and it had to be refilled by the local "water guy" who would fill up his truck from the lake and, running a pipe from the truck and through my basement window, topped up the tank. I was always very thankful for his arrival.

400 gallons may sound like a lot, but it actually gets used up quickly. There were numerous times I had to bring buckets of water from my detachment office to my house because the "water guy" was in no shape to drive, and we had run out of water! Sometimes it was a few days before they were fit enough to drive. It also worked the other way, when I had to carry buckets of water from my home to the detachment. Prisoners need water too!

So maybe that has contributed to my strong feelings about water. Far too much is wasted, and it drives me crazy when I see my neighbor watering her lawn virtually every day in the summer.

David Mundy said...

Thanks Roger. I know that this is a matter dear to your heart and I thought about your experience on reserves as I wrote. My neighbour's in-ground sprinkler system all through the drought this past summer, resulting in some very in-neighbourly thoughts on my part!

none said...

Grandson Alex (17) just returned from a Free the Children (Me to We) BHS school trip to Tanzania, and learned how to shower with a minimum amount of water..compared to long teenage showers at home.... the whole experience was awesome, positive and life-changing/enriching.

David Mundy said...

What a wonderful opportunity for Alex. Water scarcity, not taking water for granted, and teen shower lengths seem to be common themes in responses today. Bye the way Jan, I absolutely forbid Alex being 17! Time flies...