We can use a little more hydro-diplomacy
Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner no doubt had it right when he croaked, “Water, water everywhere …”.
Here we are on a planet with three quarters of its surface covered by water in one form or another, but less than .03 per cent of it drinkable, and that small percentage very unevenly distributed.
World Water Day has poured out its facts and dribbled away. Our own Mount Arrowsmith Water Service is in turmoil over a participant’s decision to withdraw over half of its support and vast portions of the globe, including our next-door neighbor, are facing severe or even desperate shortages of life’s critical liquid.
Living on the wet coast, it can be a stretch to get in a dither about available water, but parts of our own Oceanside can suffer shortages of water quantity or quality. Yet, the geography of some parts of the district leaves them parched in the dry months.
This very situation led, in part, to Qualicum Beach voting to sell the town’s excess capacity from the Water Service to help the drier Nanoose Bay area.
Like most political decisions, this one was not an entirely altruistic move — it would save the town some money. Too, it might serve to reinforce the town’s controversial population “cap.”
When a community has pure, good tasting water and enough of it, the community may not be keen to mix its water with that from other sources and diminish its favorable quality. This too, may be a reason for Qualicum Beach to step back from the district service. Whether or not the town may truly access water from Cameron Lake if the need arose, as has been suggested, remains to be seen. Cameron is a highly recreational lake with swimmers and boaters; will its water qualify?
In giving up the right to some of its Water Service water will Qualicum Beach be making more development and water available to other, drier parts of Oceanside? Is development — either homes or business — always in step with the availability of water?
Water all comes down to people. We do not always base our desires on what is reasonable. We so often take the availability of water for granted, both for survival and for luxuries. Two bathrooms? Three? Why not; so convenient. A swimming pool, a hot tub? Absolutely. Perfect green lawns? A must. Landscaping that grows with the available moisture? Not too often.
We take lots of pure water as a right. We’re busy people — how can we manage in house with only one bathroom? Two parents to get to work, kids to get to school … it can’t be done.
Ah, but it can; it has; we’re spoiled.
A few statistics.
Water usage per person in the U.S.: 132 gallons/day. In Canada: 79 gallons/day. In England: 52 gallons/day. Average daily water needs per person: 13 gallons/day.
More that a billion of the world’s people survive on one gallon/day!
On March 23 there was a photo in the Globe & Mail captioned, “Indonesian children play near heavily polluted water …” The picture showed a river whose whole surface was absolutely covered with plastic and other floating garbage!
The photograph was to highlight an international council of former government leaders “… examining ways to defuse water conflicts.” Our representative, former PM Jean Chretien, though he was not yet advocating the selling of Canada’s water, felt it was time that we debated whether Canada should share its water with the rest of the world.
In this instance, ‘share’ no doubt means ‘sell’ and Chretien pointed out that we’re only too eager to sell finite resources like oil and gas, but we jealously guard an infinite resource like water. Naturally there were strenuous rebukes like those from the Council of Canadians who want an outright ban on water exports.
The thing is, can we sell some of our water and still regulate how much we’re willing to part with?
NAFTA would have some say in this. After supposedly selling it, could we regulate how the buyers use it?
I’m all for letting Californians have their eight glasses of drinking water a day, but I’d turn off the tap if it were filling swimming pools or watering golf courses. (The best wines, of course come from non-irrigated vines.)
As one member of that water council stated, “I would like to see more hydro-diplomacy.”