There are times when I feel sheltered from the news of the world. Last week was one of those times and I was shaken by the news report as I watched The National and a subsequent interview from Cape Town, South Africa. A 350 year old city was facing a day without water, WHAT? I was glued to the story. No Water.
No water, a concern that once only would have been seen in Star Trek (the original) and was recently addressed in the episode entitled “17 Minutes” on the TV show Travellers (Season 2 episode 7). That concern is now a reality.
Watching the report was alarming to me, alarming because it no only affects 4 million people. Daily water consumption is being restricted to 50 litres per person. There is now a 50 for 150 campaign in Cape Town; 50l of water/person for 150 days. It won’t safe the city, but it will help avoid day zero.
There are many reasons, but as the Premier Helen Zille, of the province of Western Cape writes, forecasts are unreliable, in an op-ed in the Daily Maverick as normal or more than normal rainfall was forecast last summer. 2017 ended up being the driest summer on record. The premier also writes extensively of the politicizing of water, something we see here in Canada almost daily – politicizing climate change. Read her fascinating column here: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2018-01-29-from-the-inside-from-hot-water-to-thin-ice-on-the-day-zero-trajectory/?utm_content=bufferf0734&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#.WndgiGaZN-X.
Day Zero is not only about running out of water, its about circumstances that put our drinking water in jeopardy. There are communities in Canada and the US where the water is undrinkable and unusable. Boil water advisories are becoming more frequent and are in effect longer. Flint Michigan is the American example and California always seems to be on the edge of its own Day Zero. Our First Nations communities live under consistent boil water advisories; incredibly a 22-year boil water advisory will not end until later this year when the government invests $9 Million in a water plant in Neskantaga First Nations, 450 kilometers north of Thunder Bay. Multiple governments have failed the 350 members of that community.
In our own Ontario backyard we need to examine how our water supply will be managed and consumed. in 2016, Nestle bought a well near Elora Ontario, a small town not far from Guelph. Nestle planned to pump 1.6 million litres of water per day from the well for its Canada bottled water consumers. Nestle also pumps water in other communities across Canada including British Columbia. Nestle is doing nothing against the law. As we have seen with protests against pipelines, communities are very concerned with large corporations taking resources out of the ground.
All this has brought the delicate balance our water and natural resources to the forefront of my thoughts. We need to watch our actions, who we allow to take our water, ensure governments protect our resources; act to protect them from and have safeguards built in to contracts when corporations are given access to them.
As consumers of water, we know there is a lot of it in Canada, we should be wary of our consumption. It’s good to see the use of public water refilling stations at big events where we can refill water bottles and other containers. But all of this will mean nothing if we don’t learn from Cape Town and their count down to Day Zero. Little things to reserve our water will help, but as we see from Cape Town it is not enough if rainfalls decrease and drought becomes more frequent.
Cape Town went from overflowing dams to Day Zero in only four years. Day Zero in Cape Town is April 16th, only days ago it was April 12th; only the success of 50l in 150 days will push this day further and perhaps provide relief to the thousands of Cape Towners who now live with 90 second showers using reduced laundry, washing and flushing capabilities.
CBC Radio has been taking a ‘Day Zero’ contingency a bit further, considering the after effects of an earthquake along the BC Coast. Meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe hosts “Fault Line”, which examines what will takes place Day Zero of a major seismic quake. Taking the listener from the response immediately following the quake, call it Day Zero plus with the minutes, hours, days, weeks and months following the earthquake. I found listening to Fault Lines to be a “wake up” kinda scary. You can listen to the 6 episode podcast on the CBC Radio app or via cbc.ca/podcasts.
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