British Columbia

Water security a Canadian issue, not just a developing world issue

Between climate change, lack of access, contamination and growing demand, water security is becoming a bigger issue for developed countries like Canada, says a UN official in Vancouver to speak about the issues.

Zafar Adeel says climate change, contamination and lack of access a problem here and abroad

People who live on the Kahkewistahaw First Nation in Saskatchewan walk or drive to the water treatment plant to fill jugs with drinkable, filtered water because the reserve is under a boil water advisory. Over 100 First Nation reserves are under boil water advisories in Canada. (Roxanna Woloshyn/CBC )

Despite Canada having over 10 per cent of the world's freshwater supply, a United Nations official says Canadians need to know water security is an issue that concerns them.

Zafar Adeel, director of the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (which bills itself as "the United Nations' think tank on water") says water issues like scarcity and contamination are no longer issues that only affect developing countries.

"As our climate patterns shift, the water cycle shifts. We're seeing that there are water problems in areas where we didn't expect them before or didn't encounter them before," Adeel told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Adeel says water issues facing developed countries include increased urbanization, which in turn increases demand for water; and climate change changing where and when rainfall comes. Those problems can be seen in the droughts on the west coast of North America and 2014's once-in-a-thousand-year flood that hit South Carolina.

Two billion people lack safe water

Quality of water, in Canada and around the world is another issue, Adeel says.

He says that globally, 750 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water, and about two billion lack access to safe water.

In Canada, that situation is playing out in over 100 First Nation reserves still under a boil water advisory.

Adeel says he's hopeful that the United Nations goal of getting safe drinking to everyone on the planet by 2030 will drive progress on that front, even if the goal is not fully reached.

Adeel's message to Canadians is to think about how they use water and how much water they use.

"If you drink a cup of coffee in the morning, that took about 15 litres of water to produce that one cup, when you talk about growing the coffee beans, processing them, getting the coffee into your hands" he said. "I think informing ourselves is the most important part."

"There are a lot of personal choices … I think there are these practical things we can do in our day-to-day life which can improve things considerably."

Zafar Adeel will be presenting a talk, The Human Face of Water Security, at SFU Harbour Centre on Jan. 18. at 7 p.m. PT.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Canadians should think about water security, UN official says


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