North Americans used to think of drought as a problem that only happens on far away continents. But as California enters its fourth summer of historic water shortage, Canadians need to reconsider our sense of immunity.
Despite improving habits, Canada remains among the largest per capita water users in the world – nine times higher than Denmark and double the average of developed countries, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.
A watershed management professor at the University of British Columbia recently warned that our complacency about water use could quickly lead to a similar crisis to the one that has taken California by surprise. Drought means higher food prices, loss of hydroelectric power supply and more wild fires, among other dangerous side effects.
If “blue gold” becomes the instigator of the wars of the future, as prominent Canadian environmental experts have argued, we need to start treating water as the invaluable resource that it is.
After all, without water, what would Canadians paddle, swim and fish in all summer?
Oliver Brandes, co-director of the University of Victoria’s POLIS project on water sustainability, suggests rain is the simple answer to our complex water woes. “Rainwater can flush our toilets, wash our clothes and be heated for our showers, if we harvest it from our rooftops and store it in cisterns allowing it to be used, and reused, in all our homes, buildings and neighbourhoods,” he says.