Water rights and wrongs
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Mar 26, 2009  |  Vote 0    0

Water rights and wrongs

Stratford Gazette

A Lake Huron vista at sunset. A cello-wrapped case of 24 bottles. The Thames River flooding in the spring. Old televisions and computer hard drives, mired in a Third World dump.As with most environmental issues, water protection has many faces, and that face changes depends on one's locale in the world. This region was put through the drinking water paces almost a decade ago, with regulations still being implemented in the province, after E.coli in the municipal water supply killed seven and made hundreds more ill in Walkerton. Now, bottled water is being put through its environmental paces. In hindsight, giving people the choice to pay astronomical mark-ups for something that comes for almost free out of a tap is one of the more ingenious marketing schemes ever, but the environmental cost is starting to outweigh the free market. Bodies such as the Avon Maitland District School Board has limited the use and sale of bottled water in its facilities, and municipalities such as London are wrestling with how to provide quality drinking water in light of such a ban.At least we are lucky enough to have this choice of how to consume one of life's necessities. As the world's industrial economy shifts to developing nations with more lax environmental laws, the availability of clean water for these ever-increasing populations becomes more important than ever - traditionally dug wells become tainted with industrial waste and runoff, and more structured water supply systems (including treatment plants) are low on the infrastructure list. And, while desert areas in Africa have always had to contend with securing quality drinking water, climate change may shift those zones, and possibly increase bacterial threats such as cholera; while completely preventable in modern drinking water systems, the bacteria thrives in warmer climates - especially those that are more rural, considering the role that proper sanitation plays in prevention.Water needs to be an inalienable right for everyone on earth - and its importance is underscored by the fact that there is a limited supply of it. And the fact that this limited supply is growing scarcer due to pollution is a frightening thought - some consider water the "new oil" where price, and demand, for the increasingly precious resource will only rise, to potentially dangerous levels.In the past, water development has focussed on small scale projects such as digging wells in Africa, or providing water purification systems to communities - and, while these surely have helped in small pockets, a broader approach is needed.  As climate change has captured the world's attention, perhaps drinking water regulations can be tacked on to climate regulations. But just as environmental legislation has been ignored by many, this type of enforcement may not go far enough.Five years ago, the United Nations, as well as the World Health Organization, dedicated the decade (2005 to 2015) as one of action for safe water and sanitation. Halfway through, how far has the world come? - A.M.

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