In the past few decades, scholars and policy experts around the world have invested significant amount of time and resources in finding solutions to water scarcity and lack of sanitation. Globally, there are 1.2 billion people who do not have access to clean water and approximately 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. Every year, around 3.5 million children under the age of five die and 400 million school days are lost due to waterborne diseases. These figures tell us that there is an urgent need for a global policy change pertaining to water and sanitation.
Fortunately, we in Canada are blessed with abundant water supply. Canada holds only 0.5% of the world population while possesses 7% of the world’s freshwater reserve. According to the World Bank, almost 99% of Canadians have access to proper sanitation. Despite our excellent access to freshwater and sanitation, Canadians must understand the water crisis beyond their borders. In a globalized world where an event in one country can affect others, it is important for Canadians to stay vigilant to the challenges that other countries are facing, including problems regarding access to freshwater and proper sanitation.
There are a few reasons why Canadians need to learn about these issues. First, the water shortage that is taking place around the world will be detrimental to the balance in the global geopolitics. From the economic standpoint, lack of access to freshwater threatens the global energy and food security while lack of access to sanitation is draining the global economy as much as $260 billion each year. From the political perspective, these two issues could potentially damage the global security. For instance, as the first country in the world that will run out of water, lack of freshwater in Yemen has contributed to the rise of militant groups. Moreover, signs of future “water conflicts” are already evident in the Mekong Delta, the Nile River and even California. If the current trend continues, by 2020 about 30-40% of the world will have water crisis. These problems will directly or indirectly harm Canada’s geopolitical and economic security.
Second, despite its vast share of world water resource, Canada cannot remain unscathed from the peril of water scarcity. Inefficient management of the environment will eventually put Canada at risk. Most recently, about 1.3 billion gallons of mining waste flows into British Columbia’s rivers. Although the interior health has said that most of the water is now safe to consume, this type mismanagement is another reason why Canadians need to be more aware of the need for better policy management pertaining to water security. As such, the discussion on water crisis and lack of sanitation is important to ensure that Canadians are educated about the two issues that will determine the survival of our species.
However, it is important to note beforehand that given the sheer complexity, there is currently no permanent solution to water scarcity and poor sanitation. Nevertheless, the public should be informed about the significance of these two daunting issues. I believe that civic awareness is integral to the formation of future public policies that will guarantee secure access to freshwater within and beyond our border.