Water water everywhere... and not a drop to drink: World Water Day 2008 and the importance of decontamination
Original text by Veronique Vendette
Translation by Samantha Selvais
The Great Lakes and St-Lawrence River ecosystem comprise the largest soft-water supply available to humankind (18%).
As such, it is not difficult to imagine that at the beginning of the century people believed it to be invincible; even in the face of all the pollutants continuously poured into it. Then, toward the end of the 1970's, we noticed that the river was having difficulty diluting all of the wastewater—despite its impressive flow rate.
It wasn't until 1978, when the wave of activity bans on the river and its tributaries coupled with a depleted fish population, that Province of Quebec was urged to invest in water purification systems. Before this, for decades, verging on centuries, we have been dumping our untreated wastewater directly into our river.
It may surprise you to learn that on the dawn of World Water Day 2008 (for which the theme is decontamination) 2.6 billion people, or 40% of the world's population, still lack access to decontaminated water.
Fortunately, almost all of the citizens in Quebec have access to a treatment system, and the condition of the river is gradually improving. Not only do we have a large source of potable water, but it is of very high quality, and at a very low price. It is likely that this low price is precisely what makes us so wasteful.
We really should be more careful. According to Environment Canada, climate change threatens to deplete our water reserves by 40% over the next century. Furthermore, there is Montreal's 3000km long sewer system which is in need of considerable (and immediate) repair as the existing purification system is considerably inefficient, and this system currently services the densest population in Quebec.
Is it sufficient, in observing how nature works, to choose temporary solutions and technological stop-gaps (which are often inefficient or outdated) in order to the treat polluted water instead of treating the root cause of this pollution?
Or rather, is it possible to move on to the next step; one were we respect this indispensible resource (whether it be for watering, washing, fishing, or transporting our precious iPods, clothes or food from all regions of the globe)?
Yes! Obviously there are all kinds of preventative measures that can be taken to improve the situation. We can reduce the Quebecer's daily consumption—400 liters—by half, or we can use environmentally friendly cleaning and personal care products. Also, we can urge our representatives to invest in purification technologies that work in harmony with existing ecosystems; such as the ecological marsh depurators demonstrated at the Environment Canada's Biosphere , or John Todd's Eco-Machines .
It is always better to build a solid foundation in order to limit the problems we may encounter in the future, but it is also better late than never. It is important to fix the mistakes we have already made by involving ourselves in our communities. A group of students at St-Rémi de Beaconsfield are working on an art/environment project call IMAGIR aimed at restoring the Meadowbrook creek. Thanks to their efforts, maybe one day this polluted creek will be revived. It may even be possible to one day reopen the Centennial beach located just downstream. You too can be part of the solution in your neighborhood by signing up with the Great Shoreline Clean-Up at: www.vanaqua.org/cleanup .
March 22, 2008 is World Water Day. Please take the time to visit the official site on that day, that of the City of Montreal (in French), or the Council of Canadians website, all of which will provide a host of great resources for those wishing to get involved.
Or even better, check out the World Water Day activity taking place at the Montreal Biosphere on Saturday March 22 between 1-5pm. Le Comité De l'Eau Pour Tous de RÉSEAU environnement welcomes you to join them at the Biosphere to celebrate World Water Day. The event will include several conferences on the subject of water as well as workshops and a presentation by Frédéric Back (spokesperson for the event). There will also be kiosks and an art exhibit featuring the works from the St-Rémi school. All proceeds will go to De l'Eau Pour Tous which helps developing countries build infrastructure designed to provide potable water as well as manage wastewater. In addition, admission to the Biosphere is free with event participation. To reserve your tickets, or for further information, please contact Martine Lanoue at (514) 270-7110 x 223.
Perhaps you are aware of another event in connection with World Water Day? Are you involved in or connected to an interesting project that you wish to share? We are waiting to hear from you!