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Footprints around the drain (Posted On: Friday, November 09, 2012)

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Canadians are under the misconception that we have an abundance of fresh water, especially in Ontario with the Great Lakes surrounding us.  We possess one-fifth of the entire global supply of fresh water, but according to Environment Canada, we rank second as the largest consumer of municipal water in the world. 

Canadians are not charged for the true cost of water which leads to overuse and waste and with the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, we must begin to truly understand the value of water and consider it a precious and valuable resource.

Are we taking water for granted?  Water conservation may not seem important to Canadians given that we live in close proximity to 20% of the world's fresh water supply, however; we must look at the global perspective.  For instance, in Israel, water is a scarce commodity.  The country is situated in an arid zone and the natural resources are insufficient to meet the ever-rising demand.  According to United Nations Development Program (UNDP), more than one billion people - that’s one in six people in this world - have no access to clean and safe drinking water.  The World Health Organization has estimated that 1.8 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation.  Like all other natural resources, Canadians need to manage water use for the supply to remain sustainable.

The water we use in our homes is derived from two main sources: surface water and groundwater.  Groundwater is the water beneath the Earth’s surface in aquifers, and surface water is found above ground level in lakes and rivers.  And, did you know that only about 1% of the Earth’s fresh water is available to drink!  Salt water is not drinkable and on the earth's surface, 97% of the water is salt water; the 3% that is fresh water is locked up in icebergs.

Although Canada has a wealth of fresh water, a great deal of our water is not economically available to those areas that require it the most.  90% of Canadians live in a narrow corridor along our southern border.  Southern regions of the country may see increases in water pollution and depletion of aquifers and reservoirs as a result of overpopulation and growing communities thereby reducing the availability of fresh water. 
The best solution is to learn how to live with less water by making better use of what we have.  Water conservation or the “less is better” philosophy, is part of being a sustainable community.  “Each of us can make a difference if we first consider the water implications of our lifestyles and the water footprint we are leaving behind,” said David Molden, the deputy director of research for the International Water Management Institute. 

By eliminating harmful cleaning products and chemical agents we use, we assist in reducing contaminated water and therefore, contaminated drinking water.  Once groundwater is contaminated, it is much more difficult, if not impossible to clean up.  Keep it clean and avoid toxins going down the drain.

With the temperature increasing, water use is sure to increase.  Conservation of our most precious resource will only come through increased awareness among individuals.  Please, be aware of your usage and help to reduce our demand for water. 

Ten things you can do to help conserve:

1. Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as watering a plant or garden, or cleaning.
2. Verify that your home is leak-free.  Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. Check for toilet tank leaks by adding food colouring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, colour will appear within 30 minutes.
3. Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily - i.e. used tissues.
4. Don't water your street, driveway or sidewalk.  Use a broom to clean driveways and walkways.
5. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees.
6. Use a rain barrel for watering your garden, lawn, washing your vehicle, and even bathing your dog.
7. Only run the dishwashers and laundry machines with full loads.
8. Cut showers back to three minutes or shut off the water to soap up.
9. Create an awareness of the need for water conservation among your children.
10. Try to do one thing each day that will save water.  Every drop counts and every person can make a difference.

Our actions have repercussions, and educating the public is the first step in conservation.  Let’s not flush away our future.

Story by Melenie Vollick



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