Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water


Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Today is Blog Action Day. A day when bloggers around the world unite to write about a specific subject. We are thousands to write about this year's topic: Water. Check out what other bloggers have to say, join the conversation.

Water is a human right. Yet everyday, one out of five person goes without clean water; children, especially girls, are kept out of school in order to fetch water for their family's survival; on average, women and children in developing countries must walk about 6km to their closest source of drinking water. Water is the basis for life on Earth, yet water can also cause death and devastation, as seen in Pakistan, Louisiana, Indonesia, China...

Living in Canada, it's often difficult to imagine water being a scarce resource. After all, Canada is the country with longest coastline (243 042km); part of our territory (2%, or 200 000km²) is permanently covered in snow and ice; 9% of Canada (891 163 km²) is covered with fresh water, representing approximately 25% of the world's wetlands, and close to 7% of the world's renewable reserves of fresh water; the province of Quebec alone represents nearly 20% of Canada's drinking water. Canadians are indeed very water-rich. A fact we so easily overlook. In fact, the average Canadian takes clean water very much for granted: Canadians are one of the world's biggest consumers of potable water (at 439L/day per capita, it is second only to the US's 602L/day).

We depend on water to grow our food, as well as to supply us with a part of our diet. Yet, despite our water-wealth, Canadian farmers are yearly at the mercy of drought and floods.  The situation is even more precarious in other parts of the world. Water resources are so easily destroyed by human disasters, such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the chemical spill in Hungary. It takes a mere drop of petrol to render 25L of water undrinkable. Every year tailings from mines, whether open pit or underground, pollute water tables and riverbeds. Sources of drinking water and fisheries are daily endangered by contamination from uranium mine, the tar sands, and other industries.

Don't even get me started on seawater. The oceans are being pillaged, yet we do not even know what is being destroyed, since there has never been a comprehensive survey of the oceanic ecosystem. Since the rise of Jacques Cousteau and his ship Calypso, marine biologists have been scrambling to take stock before the seas turn into underwater deserts. We are only just beginning to understand the magnitude of the effects of pollution and climate change on the ocean and marine life. We are only just beginning to see the bigger picture: how we treat the oceans has an effect on what happens on dry land.

The facts are stark. The numbers are depressing. There is an urgent need for stricter water conservation policies.

Clean water is not free. Clean water is priceless. It is precious.

While we wait for things to change, here's what we can all do to conserve water.
Fix leaky taps: It isn't difficult. If it seems like an impossible task, call a plumber. 

Install faucet aerators: If you haven't already done so. Aerators add air to running water, giving the impression that lots of it is rushing out of the faucet: they can reduce your water consumption by up to 50%. You don't know any better, and your hands and face get just as clean.

Install low-flow shower heads: See previous. While you're at it, time yourself when you're under the water: shaving off just one minute from your shower time can save buckets of water (up to 500L/ month!).

Reduce your toilet's water consumption: Current toilets use only 6L of water per flush, while top of the line toilets and dual-flush models use a mere 3L. If you are not in the market for a bathroom remodel, there are low-tech methods to reduce your flush. Placing one or more water-filled bottles in the toilet's tank will reduce each flush's volume, however, it can also reduce efficiency. For those with strong constitutions, there is the 'no flush method'. And there are various ways to re-route grey water or rain water to your toilet; or one can simply collect said waters in buckets, and use them to fill the toilet tank.

Put your yard and garden on a water diet: Install a rain butt. Turn off the automatic watering system for the lawn, and use the manual override to water the lawn -only when it needs it. In fact, why not tear out the lawn, and install a less thirsty ground cover, such as creeping thyme or clover? Planting drought-resistant plants also helps reduce your garden's thirst.

Eat less meat: Calm down! I am not telling you to become a vegetarian! Just eat less meat, perhaps, even cut it out completely once a week. Did you know that it takes about 24L (6.3 US gallons, or 5.2 Imp. gallons) to produce a hamburger, bun and all? Add the burger's carbon footprint, and you've got a good argument for reducing meat's place on your plate. If only once a week.

Stop buying bottled water: Bottled water is the ultimate embodiment of wastefulness. It takes about 17 million barrels of oil to produce the plastics water bottles consumed every year in the US alone; 86% of which are not recycled, and end up polluting the very waterways that fill those bottles. Most large cities in industrialized countries supply their constituents with perfectly safe, clean drinking water, paid for by municipal taxes. That same water we pay to have cleaned is now sloshing about in a plastic bottle sold for about 2$ a pop. Fill a pitcher with tap water and keep it in the fridge. If you still don't like the taste of your tap water, here's a little trick to improve its flavour.

Stop using the garbage disposal unit in your kitchen: Garborators are so dated! They are a drain (I couldn't help it!) on the system, and they waste precious resources: clean water, and compostable waste! If your kitchen still has a garbage disposal unit, you should seriously consider getting rid of that safety hazard. Start a compost pile to transform your food and garden waste into black gold, or participate in your city's composting programme.

Change your old appliances: If you are in the market for new appliances, make sure you purchase energy and water efficient models. In some cities, you can even get discounts from your utility company for buying efficient machines.

Be water-wise!



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