Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Ah, technology

I am not the greatest with technology, and I know I frustrate many when I ask them for help! My computer skills are fairly limited and mostly involve saving a document or going on youtube. This is why doing this blog project was both a challenge and an extremely helpful learning experience. I know feel more comfortable operating a computer, and would even go as far as saying that I enjoy it! I can now add blogging to my list of computing skills! YOHOO, or should I say YAHOO!

Also, if you wish to see the sources from which I got my information check out my bibliography at:


The issues of water access, privatization and pollution affect everyone on this planet; that is why I found it so meaningful to focus my blog project on it. Water is a resource that we all equally need. It is life on this planet.

Over the course of this project I've learned that the global water crisis encompasses a vast variety of problems ranging form social, to economic, to environmental. For example, water scarcity/mismanagement caused by overallocation and pollution leads to water privatization which causes a lack of access to the poor which can result in illness and death. This is of course just one of the many scenarios people are currently facing across the globe,  and will continue to experience unless we take action.

Since water is the most important resource on this planet, everyone has a reason to be passionate about it, to protect it, to sustain it. We must refuse that the fate of our fresh water supply be decided by a small group of rich business men. If the people ban together and take back the right to their water, we might be able to alter the alarming future of our fresh water supply and sustain it for future generations. We must realize that by continuing with our water wasteful ways, our fresh water supply will only last us to 2050. The time is now! Lets do everything in our power to conserve our water!


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Oh Canada

Oh Canada, you may be our home and native land, but when it comes to protecting the most precious natural resource you have bestowed upon us, we do not do you honor.

 Canada has the third largest fresh water collection in the world, and we take advantage of it! The average Canadian consumes 325 L of water a day, which is 2 times more than what Europeans consume. The 5 liters 1.1 billion people living in water short areas must survive off of each day is the same amount we consume when flushing the toilet!

Across Canada, numerous water issues are arising. In Qu├ębec, blue-green algae plagues the St. Laurent water levels. The Great Lakes Basin is at a historic low due to the growing demands of industry, power plants, farms and urban sprawl. In the prairies, farmers regularly struggle with severe water drought, and in Alberta, oil sands constantly waste freshwater as 2 to 4 barrels of this precious resource are needed to make 1 barrel of oil, a not so precious resource! 1,174 boil water advisories are in effect across Canada, and of these, many are for First Nations communities. Out of the 89,897 homes on reserves, approximately 2,145 lack access to water service, and 4,668 have no sewage service. This is IN CANADA! You would think that the government would do something about this alarming situation...

Even Canada, a "developed" country, is struggling with many different water issues just like every other country in the world. This problem is GLOBAL, and demands everyone's closest attention.

If you are interested in reading more about Canadian water issues check these out!

What are we going to do?

I could tell you that by cutting down your shower time, not leaving the tap running when you brush your teeth and  living by the rule"If its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down", the water crisis would be solved. But it's not that simple...

Sure if everyone makes these small changes, the crisis might ease by a slight bit, but the water shortage crisis is MUCH greater than that. Not only is it impacted by our everyday routines, but more so by all our industrial and agricultural practises. Solving the water problem would mean completely reinventing our way of life, and most are not so inclined to do that...

There are however solutions that allow us to continue living the way we have been for so many years while still being water conservative.

Agriculture being the main use of fresh water on this planet has developed new technologies to help minimise its huge consumption:

  1. Drip Irrigation: use of plastic tubing on and beneath  the surface to deliver water directly to plant roots in small quantities. There is no evaporation involved in this technique, and the costs to implement it are coming down.
  2. Low Pressure Spraying: for grain crops, uses 30% less water than conventional spraying.
  3. Timed Irrigation: Applying small quantities of water just in time to alleviate severe crop drought.
  4. New Water: use of reclaimed waste water to water golf courses and parks. Deals with water scarcity and water pollution issues.
As these new technologies may be part of the solution, they still encourage us to stick to our agricultural ways of mass production, and mass distribution which also consumes a large amounts of water for the oil needed to transport these food products across the world. If we were to re-invent our agricultural methods all together and go back to local farming practises we would be able to produce more nutritional products in an environmentally sound way.

Others are considering desalination as a viable option. Desalination is a process which removes salt from the water, meaning that once we've used up all the fresh water, we can begin taking water from our oceans! I would like to think that human kind isn't that lazy! That we could find methods to conserve the freshwater we have instead of taking over greater bodies of water and continuing our vicious cycle of over consumption.

Solutions to the water crisis are vast and ever-changing. What it really comes down to is how much we are willing to "sacrifice" to save this precious resource.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Fight Over Water

There have always been debates, conflicts and wars over who has the rights to water, who has the power to control it. In 1929, Hebert Hoover expressed that "True conservation of water is not the prevention of its use. Every drop of water that runs to the sea without yielding its full commercial returns to the nation is an economic waste" p.16, Whose water Is It.
Today, the most powerful stakeholders of our water are private companies such as Suez, Vivendi and Thames Water. Many assume that governments are the ones who control public water systems, and in theory they are right. But during the past decades, governments have been forced to hand over their public water services to these private companies, who's main responsibilities are to  shareholders and not to the public that they are supposed to serve.

Watch this this clip from the documentary FLOW  for a greater explanation!

Source: YouTube

Private water companies are not the only ones to "mess" with public water! The well known conflict between Coca Cola company and local farmers affected by its activities in India is a prime example. Coca Cola had been pumping water from local wells and aquifers which led to farmers having less and less access to this vital resource. This brought about violent protests in the state of Kerala which led to the closure of Coca Cola company in that location.

Everybody is involved in water issues, but their seems to be the reoccurring trend of rich companies against the less wealthy public. Even though these elite companies have power, people will not give up the fight when something as important as their access to clean drinking  water is threatened. 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Causes

source: pwf
Water scarcity stems from a number of interconnected issues including: poverty, pollution, overallocation and general misuse of the land. It is the greatest human threat of the 21st century, and one that was created by our own greed and ignorance. Since the 1970s, the world's water supply has declined by by an alarming 30%, and will continue to do so unless we change our ways. A large amount of our activity on this planet negatively impacts the freshwater supply. Here are a few of the largest.


As previously mentioned, 70% of human's consumption of fresh water is allocated to agriculture, and today, 10% of those water sources are almost exhausted. Food is important, but the ways in which we produce it are extremely harmful to water systems.  Our practices involve methods that allow us to mass produce a specific product in ways that are detrimental to the environment. Present-day agriculture has become dependent on chemical fertilizers that affect the soil in the sense that it has a lower water holding capacity. This means that it is unable to retain as much water, which means that the amount of water needed to sustain the crops drastically increases. Also, with single crop production, the amount of pesticides used increases which then leech into fresh water sources. Animal farming also consumes a large amount of this resource. 1 pound of beef takes 2500 gallons of water to produce! Animal farming also plays a role in water pollution. This newer approach of confining animals leads to concentrated volumes of waste which run into surface water and seeps into ground water.

Deforestation: Forest floors play an important role in retaining and regenerating water tables(water accumulations under ground), but extensive logging and monoculture make that water run-off.





Source: theriskyshift
During the industrial revolution, water pollution expanded with the introduction of the chemical industry, the internal combustion engine etc. But there were no effective water treatment systems in place to withstand the pollution these new industrial players. "Steady economic growth where not accompanied by pollution regulation and enforcement continues to devastate water supplies". And even when water treatment facilities are already established, they are not equipped to deal with the various pollutants we use today. Water treatment plants do not remove chemicals such as dioxins, heavy metals or PCBs. These pass into lakes, rivers, oceans where they threaten human, sea and animal life as they bio magnify in food chains causing mutations, diseases and death. The increased number of rivers and lakes contaminated by human, industrial and agricultural waste results in nearly 30,000 human deaths per day worldwide.

Mismanagement and Overallocation:

 "12% of the world's population uses 85% of its water, and these 12% do not live in the third world". -Maude Barlow

The average Canadian uses 350 liters of water a day, while a person in a water scarce region must survive on as little as 5 liters of water a day.We as Canadians overuse and waste water everyday, whether it be by leaving  the tap on while brushing teeth and wasting up to 5 litres of water per minute, or removing 370 million cubic meters of water a year from rivers for tar sands projects. Our whole lifestyle seems to revolve around the wasting of this finite resource, and the effects are beginning to become overwhelming. The Colorado River frequently runs dry before reaching the ocean due to overallocation of water to users of the upper basin, the Jordan River has been reduced to little more than a trickle due to redistribution from Jordan to Israel. These effects are severe warning signs that we are choosing to ignore.
Source: 404systemerror

Privatization: Water privatization plays a huge role in water management (or lack there of) as it dictates the availability of this resource. With water privatization, water control is handed over  by governments to multinational corporations whose main responsibilities are to shareholders and not to the people they "serve".

 In situations where governments have handed over their water services to private companies, only a small elite group profits,and safe drinking water is not made readily available to those who need it most.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Water is Life

In Canada, the fear of a water crisis is not a prominent one. Everyday with a twist of the tap, what seems like limitless supplies of fresh water flow into our homes. But even in the country that possesses one fifth of the world's freshwater supply, threatening strains are being imposed on this vital resource. 

These strains are magnified when analyzing water shortage on a global scale. If we look at a satellite image of Earth, 71% of that image is blue, water. But of that 71%, only 2.53% is fresh water. 1% of that fresh water is unfrozen, and less than half of that 1% is accessible for human consumption. These numbers may not seem to be in our favour, but this amount of water has sustained our survival on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years. 
This may lead to the question "Is their really a water crisis?"

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.  
             ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

The fact is that this strict percentage of available water is experiencing many strains due to pollution, mis-management, overconsumption and climate change. 20%of the world's population, nearly one billion people, lacks adequate supplies of fresh water. 

How is the flow of water, the largest flow of any material in the biosphere, under such a deep threat?

According to scientist and activist Vandana Shiva,"the water crisis is a human created crisis within the last ten years. Its not as much a water shortage crisis as it is a water management crisis". We have begun taking advantage of this finite resource by exploiting it in unsustainable ways; the average Canadian uses 350 L of water a day, and the average household uses 1,400 L of water a day.  But personal use is not the greatest to blame for this water crisis. 70% of available fresh water is used for industrial agriculture and farming.  As food production is essential, its wasteful practices are detrimental to our freshwater supply both in matter of consumption and pollution. 

Our overuse of this important resource is definitely a huge cause in its depleting quality and quantity, but the privatization of water plays a big role in its diminishing availability. The privatization or "commodification" of water encourages the idea that water is like any other good that can be bought or sold. This ideology brings up an important question: "Is water a fundamental human right, or a commodity?". The book Whose Water Is It states that "Economics tell us that scarcity has value, but does that mean that water, regarded for millennia as essentially free and boundless, should now be bought and sold like any other good?". 

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.
                            -W.H. Auden

The issues that arise from water scarcity are complex and difficult to address. Nonetheless, they must be attended to immediately, as all life on Earth depends on it.Water is the most fundamental human need, and its scarcity causes clashes between neighbours, between countries. As stated by the U.N. Secretary General in 2001:" rivalries over water may well become a source of conflict and wars in the future". The UN also declared in 2003 that the "water crisis is serious", and that "it is getting worse and will continue to do so unless corrective measures are taken".

Now is the time to question, to educate, to act. Water is the most important resource on this planet, and its protection and sustainability must be everyone's priority. 

"Water cannot be created, it must be shared".

Check out the film "FLOW", you can watch it on youtube!