It is now Spring Ice Break-up time in southern Ontario, a time of great interest to “lake ice phenologists“. As I write this, I am looking out of the window at a very wet scene in the back garden. There was an early Spring snowfall yesterday, which is now melting away. The snowmelt is flowing towards the street where it is going down the drains which will eventually lead to Lake Ontario. While I look outside, I take a sip of my tea, which was made with treated Lake Ontario water from the tap. Lake Ontario, one of the world’s largest lakes, is interconnected with my life and that of my neighbours in numerous intimate ways. Yet we hardly ever take the time to think about the waterbodies flowing around our city.
Today, we get this opportunity. Today is the Global World Water Day (March 22), spearheaded by several United Nations agencies. It is a day of global celebration and learning with events in thousands of cities, towns and villages around the world, including many across Canada and United States.
The focus of World Water Day is on clean drinkable water for people. Water is essential, not only for our survival, but also for our health by ensuring sanitary habitats. Clean water is also essential for the stability of human societies. There is no way around it — access to clean water is a fundamental human right. Without it, there will be death, suffering and widespread chaos.
Many Canadians are very fortunate to have access to cheap clean drinkable water from lakes, rivers and groundwater — we even use it to flush our toilets! However, Canada is not except from water access issues. Many communities in the north struggle with access to clean water with severe consequences. Even in the south, there has been occasional outbreaks of water-borne diseases due to improper monitoring and oversight. We all must work together to ensure we have access to safe water at all times.
Water is also essential for healthy ecosystems. Pollution is wide spread. We all are connected through air and through water. Due to atmospheric transportation, there is chemical contaminants in water bodies world-wide, even in remote sites. Temperature and nutrient pollution are widespread in large lakes where people live. Physical pollution such as garbage, plastics and unwanted objects can create havoc for both aquatic and terrestrial biota.
Lucky for us all, there are success stories and we can still share the beauty of our lakes and rivers with the world. Take a moment to appreciate your neighbouring lakes and rivers, oceans and estuaries. Whether it is snowing, raining or dry where you live, think about the water you use and where you get the water from. Water is amazing, and connects us all. Celebrate World Water Day by drinking a glass of clean water!