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We should rethink the way we use water

As a prospector, I’ve worked all over Northern Canada. When out in the field, if I needed any water to drink, cook or wash with, I just went to the nearest lake, stream or river and got a bucket of the stuff.

As a prospector, I’ve worked all over Northern Canada. When out in the field, if I needed any water to drink, cook or wash with, I just went to the nearest lake, stream or river and got a bucket of the stuff.

Most of our water comes from rainfall and snow melt so its pretty pure and then collects in the depressions in the topography to become lakes. It is what humans, animals, birds and plants have used for thousands and millions of years. The only stipulation we had on drinking water was to avoid stagnant water or water where a lot of beavers live because of an illness called beaver fever, but 99 per cent of the water was drinkable and caused us no problems.

One old prospector said it was the way nature intended it. If you found a pond or lake with nothing living in it, then that might indicate some sort of danger. In fact, drinking the water with critters and a bit of algae was probably good for you. Unless humans or industries were mucking the stuff up, it was fine. Not like in the tropics, where most of their water one way or the other gets contaminated by humans.

So are water treatment plants really necessary for all the people, or can many just like the prospectors, bush workers, hunters and trappers, simply get a bucket of water from the nearest lake? Personally, if the water in the lakes is considered not safe for humans, I think we are in considerable trouble because if it is not safe for humans then it is not safe for other critters, mammals, birds, fish, plants and insects.

In some farm areas and around urban areas, it is a different story because human beings are polluters and the pollution per capita is staggering. People don’t seem to realize all the pollution they create with litter, pet poop, gas-operated machinery, motorboats, sewage, home, industrial uses and the chemicals farmers may use add up.

You would think that after all the decades and centuries that people have been using water that they would have this all figured out, but sadly this hasn’t happened yet. Imagine if the country passed a law that no water was going to be treated. You used whatever was closest. Then, all of a sudden, people would start taking pollution a whole lot more seriously than they do now.

Here is something to consider that I mentioned last week. In Canada, in 2021, people used 401 litres of water per person per day. But they only drink 3.7 litres a day and the rest of that amount is used for other purposes. So why are we putting it all through water treatment plants, which costs a lot of money? Especially when so many people have switched over to drinking expensive bottled water because they don’t trust tap water. And is water in plastic bottles really safe or a good idea considering all the micro plastics in water?

A few years ago, a big city had a water issue and the water coming out of the taps was a little cloudy because of a water main break. So, a boil water order was issued. When asked, one of the officials said the water was completely safe to drink even if it was a little cloudy. The reporter asked, “If the water is safe to drink, why issue a boil water order?” The expert said, “Because it makes people feel better.” So not only do we waste a lot of water, we waste a lot of energy boiling it for no reason.

Here is something else to consider: I read an article about municipal water systems in Canada, and they had determined that 20 to 30 per cent of the water that goes through a water treatment plant never even gets to homes and businesses to use because all the water systems leak. Many are small leaks that never get detected, until they become big leaks and a major repair is needed. That’s another problem city officials don’t like to talk about.

I will continue to drink water straight from the lakes. Now all we have to do is figure out better ways to use and distribute water to our urban centres.