Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 10, 2006
Water – waste not, want not
Drinkable water is becoming a boiling hot commodity and an endangered resource
By RAMON GONZALEZ
According to Acuña, the world is running out of fresh water and won't be able to support the additional 2.6 billion people who will inhabit the earth by the year 2025.
"As many as two-thirds of those people will be living in conditions of serious water shortage, and one-third will be living with absolute water scarcity," he said. "Demand for water will exceed availability by 56 per cent."
Currently, about one billion people around the world routinely drink unhealthy water and 40 per cent of the world's inhabitants have insufficient fresh water for minimal hygiene.
A child dies every 15 seconds due to easily preventable water-related diseases.
About 60 people attended each session of the institute, which was sponsored by an array of Church organizations, including the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, St. Joseph's College and Newman Theological College.
Organizer Tim Hartnagel said the institute focused on the water crisis to support CCODP's three-year campaign against the privati-zation of water in the developing world. So far CCODP has delivered 219,000 signed postcards to Ottawa urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to oppose privatization of water services.
"Water is bountiful, beautiful and sacred and it is easy to see then why water is such a great symbol for the religious traditions," Profit said.
"By getting in touch with this great gift, . . . we are also getting in touch with something that is of God, something that is spiritual, something that is used for the experience of the religious as well," he said.
Water is sacred; quenches our thirst, renews us and regenerates us.
"And yet we are living in a situation where water is completely being abused," the Jesuit lamented.
Pregnant women are told they should not eat fish because of mercury contamination.
Bottled water drains global water supplies.
"But who is there to warn the muskrats and the other animals that are in these waterways?
"The frogs are being extinguished because they are becoming polluted by the water in which they live because their skin is very sensitive."
In Canada, more than one trillion litres of untreated sewage is dumped into our water every year by 21 cities across the country, Acuña said.
"Hazardous waste spills are wreaking havoc in waterways and bodies of water around the world (like Lake Wabamun)."
In Alberta's cities, most of the water is returned to the watershed. However, much of that water is contaminated by pesticides and fertilizers used for lawns, or by antibiotics and other medicine flushed down the toilet.
"Industry is also a major contaminator of waterways," Acuña said.
"Manufacturing plants often release chemical by-products of their manufacturing directly into the water sources - as is the case of effluent dumped into rivers by pulp mills and paper manufacturing."
Profit said an alarming amount of wetlands is being lost.
"In fact, half of the world's wetlands have been destroyed over the last 100 years. Many major rivers, at least for part of the year, no longer reach the ocean anymore."
Water is now being privatized. "Our water is beginning to be controlled by private corporations."
Fr. Jim Profit
Corporations, he noted, are buying fresh water around the world and selling it to the people.
As Acuña pointed out, "Some countries and cities have sold all their water and water services to corporations, some countries have invaded others for access to water, and businesses the world over are looking for ways to make money off the growing demand and shrinking supply of fresh water."
Bottled water is draining water supplies around the world and clogging landfills with plastic, both Profit and Acuña lamented.
"People, many of whom are concerned about water quality, are paying hundreds of times more for bottled water than they would for clean water from their own taps," Acuña said.
"Coca Cola today makes more money from sales of bottled water than it does from sales of Coke."
As well, the issues of drought, contamination and competing interests that are playing out globally, are also playing out in Canada.
"We have seen in recent years tremendous drought on the Prairies, contaminated water in Walkerton and Battleford, and municipalities struggling to adequately supply their residents' water needs," Acuña pointed out.
"Because we have more water than most, we have also seen our federal government come under tremendous pressure in international arenas to begin exporting our fresh water, to open up water distribution to corporate competition, and to include our water under the terms of the World Trade Organization and NAFTA."
At the core of the crisis of water is a spiritual problem, Profit said.
"If we don't recognize the reality of God within the earth itself and within our water systems, then we are ripe really for our own destruction because we treat it only as material and therefore we can destroy it."
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