Kudos to Hanneke Brooymans for writing and to Alberta’s Lone Pine for publishing such an important book that likely won’t sell well against the best sellers but should be required reading for many, including politicians, environmentalists and citizens. From what I discovered in reviewing this book, it couldn’t be published soon enough, at least when it comes to the quality and the quantity of water in Canada and around the world. Water in Canada examines the effects of human activities on our water, and presents a thought-provoking analysis of our water issues in Canada making it painfully clear that the quantity and quality of our freshwater resources are diminishing at an alarming rate.
With a foreword by world-renowned water expert Dr. David Schindler, Water in Canada dives into issues such as:
- where Canada’s freshwater comes from
- water politics and economics
- the impact of climate change on our water resources
- whether our supply of freshwater now and for the future is healthy and sustainable in the face of increasing urban, agricultural and industrial use
- threats and concerns including pollution, bottled water pros and cons, boil-water advisories and flawed water treatment systems in our municipalities and First Nations communities
- what our three levels of government are doing to protect and conserve freshwater—and what they should be doing
- conflicts related to international water issues including diversion projects that might see our freshwater sold to thirsty states in the U.S.
Watch Brooymans interview about her new book on Primetime Alberta on March 21, 2011 in a segment entitled: “Is Water the Next Oil?”
In the book and again in the Primetime interview, Brooymans points out that the Athabasca River has dropped by 30% since the 1970s. Although she doesn’t say it directly, I cannot help but wonder how much of this the river’s decline is due to oil upgraders and stupendous industry growth in the Athbasca basin?
According to Steve Soloman, author of “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization” published by Harper Collins in 2010, water is already the new oil. “Simply put,” he says, “water is surpassing oil itself as the world’s scarcest critical resource.” In his fascinating book, he proves his point throughout history civilizations rose or fell based on their ability or inability to effectively maintain their waterworks infrastructure.
The lesson in history is that in the tumultuous adjustments that surely lie ahead, those societies that find the most innovative responses to the crisis are most likely to come out as winners, while the others will fall behind. Civilizations will be shaped as well by water’s inextricable, deep interdependencies with energy, food and climate change.
I did find it comforting to know that the seemingly mundane topic of water is interesting enough to have its own magazine in Canada. The magazine has been published under numerous titles since 2001:
Water Canada is the only national magazine dedicated to water quality and stewardship in Canada. Published six times a year, Water Canada is the magazine of choice for news and information on drinking water, residential and commercial water treatment, source water protection and conservation, wastewater treatment, stormwater management, water resource management, technology advancement, policy and governance, business and investment, and waterworks infrastructure.
Both Environment Canada and Water Canada are great sources of information for issues related to water in Canada but neither present the facts and figures like Brooymans or these posted recently by Emma Lui, from the Council of Canadians for www.rabble.ca.
A comparison of Environment Canada’s Reports on Plans and Priorities from 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 reveals some shocking cuts to a critical government department. A summary of key points from the budget cuts to Environment Canada are:
- Reduction of $222.2 million from last year’s total planned spending
- Elimination of 1211 jobs (full-time equivalents) over the next three years
- Some of the biggest cuts were in the program activities of Climate Change and Clean Air, Substance and Waste Management, Weather and Environmental Services, Water Resources and Internal Services
- Specific programs in which funding was reduced include the Action Plan on Clean Water and the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan, the Chemicals Management Plan, the Clean Air Agenda and the Air Quality Health Index
- The specific programs that will be cut next year include Species at Risk
Up until May 2011, Hanneke Brooymans was the environment reporter at the Edmonton Journal for eight years. (I tried to contact her for this article but discovered she took a buyout from the Edmonton Journal in May.) She started her post-secondary education with a Bachelor of Science degree specializing in environmental biology from the University of Alberta. After a year’s travel in Australia, she continued to feed her curiosity about environmental science issues while at the same time sharing that knowledge with others by becoming the environment reporter for the Edmonton Journal. Now she’s looking for work in an industry that isn’t hiring and in an environment that is also cutting jobs at a time when she has something important to say. I hope she can find a way.
Water in Canada is Brooymans’ first book. Published in February 2011 as hardcover for $29.95. After September, you’ll find it in trade paperback for a little less. Anyone with an interest in using or drinking water in Canada should read this book. You can order it online from the Lone Pine Publishing website or you can pick it up at any bookstore in Edmonton. Don’t just read the book. Tell your family, friends and colleagues to read it, too.