Increasing acidity, thinning of sea ice in the Far North, depletion of life supporting oxygen in waterways, and the shifts in coastal wildlife populations are real concerns laid out in Canada’s State of the Oceans Report,2012. The causes of these issues range from natural cycles to industrial development and warn of trouble ahead. Oceans around the world are under pressure and face similar challenges..so why should Canada be concerned. Importantly we have more coastline than anyone else..some 240,000 km of coastline, including a vast arctic region. This complex web of life contributes $38billion to our GDP, from gas , oil, fishing, and tourism . What supports this is under stress. Research and initiatives seem substantial, but there is much to do.
In 2002 Fisheries and Oceans drafted a national oceans strategy, which was inspired by the world leading 1996 Canada Oceans Act. This Act was the first piece of national legislation in the world that focused solely on ocean management. This was seen as a chance to approach ocean management as a whole instead of piecemeal attempts. It called for an integrated approach to address economic, environmental, and social issues. 5 marine protection areas were promised. More than a decade later the strategy is drifting. Some work has been done , but the focus has been lost in the myriad of federal and provincial departments that have input. There is a real lack of follow through and a need for actual, measurable protection…and the stress on the oceans continues to grow.
Consider that carbon dioxide emissions are a major cause of acidification. Acidification disolves calcium ,and so it should be no surprise when the commercial shell fish industries report reduced harvests. Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol a year earlier, and has not yet agreed to international emissions reduction targets. Rising sea levels threaten low lying communities, wetlands, and salt marshes. Warming waters have sent some species looking for cooler waters. Nature is trying to adjust to these new realities and not always with the best results . Pacific salmon stocks have dwindled. Hypoxia (areas of depleted oxygen levels) has produced dead zones in some areas of the world, with pockets noted around Vancouver Island and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Cod stocks were hit badly by over fishing have been replaced by crab and shrimp as primary species. Masses of floating plastic prove deadly to fish becoming entangled or mistaking the plastic for food
In particular with the warming waters of the Far North and the possabilty of year round shipping, is Canada ready to handle an oil spill in the Arctic. Questions like where would we allow aquaculture, wind farms, or where we might not allow certain types of shipping will become relevant.
Shipping in the Arctic in 2050.
Canada’s National Conservation Plan(2014) includes $252 million in funding over 5 yrs for a variety of conservation issues. $37 million is directed at marine and coastal conservation. With that Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to establish marine protected areas(MPA’s) addressing ecological needs and socio-economic needs. A national network of MPA’s sounds nice but Canada has protected only 3% of ocean territory , while Australia has a national network of some 30%.
Australia’s Marine Reserves
Let’s keep pushing for reducing the reasons for climate change…reduce green house gases, and speed up the setting aside of Marine Protected Areas.
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The production of food requires a reliable source of quality water. We in Canada are more blessed with this resource than others on this planet., but let’s not take this for granted. Water availability is reliant on such factors as human development, climate variables, and climate change. The factors influence or control where, when, and how water exists in the hydrological cycle.
On one side we can have water in abundance..perhaps too abundant, which can lead to flooding. Large scale flooding is not just something that occurs in distant lands, Canada has these events as well. The Red River Valley in Manitoba can battle flooding on an annual basis. Calgary flooded in 2013, and southern Saskatchewan in 2014.
The other side of flooding is drought. These are the far more costly of the climate related events in terms of GDP generated by the food industry. Droughts are sneaky in that you don’t realize you are in one, until it is too late. If you have successive years of moisture deficits, soil water storage can deplete affecting food production. The severe drought that has hit California is partially blamed on climate change, former full reservoirs have been severely depleted. It is possible that things will return to normal, only time will tell..but the North American food system has been impacted. Canada imports over a $1 billion of food from California..so we need to be aware of changes, the increased costs, and what we can do locally to offset the new supply and demand forces.
Our food systems are quite interconnected, adverse effects in one area can result in adverse effects in another area. A recent article by the Calgary Herald noted that cattle production is being threatened by moisture deficits. leading to a decrease in pasturing, and an increase in feed prices. Meanwhile the wettest May on record in Texas boosted pasture conditions, and ranchers added to their herds… increasing beef production. We can see how climate conditions in parts of the USA can directly affect Canada’s position on the world stage of food production, whether positive or negative. The availability of a high volume of good water is extremely important.
What can we do to address the issue of drought..over which we have little or no control? We have to look at what water we have, how it changes over time, its environmental, social, and economic power, and how best to use it. By studying these issues we can develop strategies to possibly negate the effects of drought. Water reservoirs store large volumes of water, but over time these water banks can be depleted, as has happened in California. The use of ground water supplies is also important ,and must be managed with strategies deployed to use surface and ground water in a balanced manner lest sustainability of the resource is called into question.
Drought on the Canadian Prairies:
In the coming years as the world’s population grows, and the need to feed that growth increases, we must look at Canada’s place in the global food production system. We have the chance to be a leader in the food chain..to do this we need good volume of quality water.
Drought in Brazil may affect Canadian coffee prices:
Industrial waste used to be poured directly into the harbour. Three waste water treatment plants discharged into the harbour, and runoff from urban areas flowed freely. Contaminated sediment settled into the harbour. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the US named Hamilton Harbour as one of the 43 Areas of Concern. A document called the Remedial Action Plan was produced in 1992 laying out a plan to undo years of abuse to the harbour. Community involvement came from the Bay Area Restoration Council, who promoted clean up projects, monitored and assessed the implementation of the RAP.
Developing Hamilton’s Waterfront.
Major accomplishments to date, include upgrades to 2 of the waste water treatment plants, and a $20 million rehab of the Windemere Basin. In 2013 a 25 hectare chunk of industrial land was reclaimed, restoring a local ecosystem and providing natural wildlife areas and park lands. By 2020 the harbour is expected to be delisted as an area of concern.
Where once Hamilton’s shorelines were an ecological disaster, featuring dirty smelling water and dead fish..they are now attracting tourists, residents , and business.
Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens jumped into the picture to add their skill to the Cootes Paradise Marsh. Their work is bringing life back to the marsh. Once an area teaming with life , it descended into a dark brown polluted pond. The causes were sewage, invasive carp, and land use changes leading to erosion. With the help of volunteers some 50,000 aquatic plants were introduced in the 90’s. Formerly barren…something started to happen. The quality of the water had started to improve. Canoes can now be seen regularly , as the residents get out and enjoy these areas. There was a big biodiversity festival and a birding festival. The Hamilton waterfront is becoming a place to go if you want to enjoy life and the water. Congratulations to Hamilton!
Experience Hamilton’s Waterfront..
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In February of 2015, Ontario got hit with a record cold snap. Water services staff at the city of Guelph were over run by calls from people who had no water …pipes were freezing all over the city. With water main breaks, and an increasing volume of customer calls, staff were working around the clock.
An emergency operations center kicked in and the city went to work. By seasons end , and costing $545,000 in direct freeze expenses..and $80,000 in lost revenue from those who were instructed to run their water.
Staff at Guelph Water Services reviewed what was done and how the situation was handled. Some 50 recommendations came of the review and a policy developed. Policies were approved by the City of Guelph in November 2015, including programs to prevent frozen pipes, and support those with frozen pipes. Education and outreach programs were enacted, with a more formal preventative program aimed at homes and businesses with a history of freezing.
Guelph relies on a finite source of ground water for it’s water supply. The residents cannot all run the water or there might be a shortage of water for everyday use or putting out fires. The program has had great success with those enrolled, and the numbers have continued to grow.
One change that was identified through working the program is that those being provided with a temporary water source ( like a neighbors garden hose), will most likely be able to use that water for potable and non potable needs. With testing, most temporary water lines will provide water for all requirements . Those with water that does not pass the standards for potability, will be giving vouchers for bottled water.
Formal cost recovery programs are also in place. For instance, those running water as part of the prevention program and customers on temporary lines have some consideration. Protocols are in place that are consistent with industry practice and reinforces the value of water as a resource, and of the service provided.
From WaterCanada September/October 2015 we have an article by Andre Voshart,Turning the page on Filtration. The article looks at the work of Dr. Theresa Dankovich with respect to an product that she is developing, The Drinkable Book.
Contaminated water consumption causes millions of deaths each year…primarily among children. Dr. Dankovich discovered and developed an inexpensive , simple, and easily transportable nanotechnology based method to purify drinking water. Each page of the Drinkable book is impregnated with bacteria killing metal nanoparticles. Silver and other similar metals have been known to have the ability to kill bacteria, but no one have put them into paper to purify drinking water. While at McGill, she found sheets of thick filter paper embedded with silver nanoparticles could do just that…later Dr. Dankovich expanded the repertoire of embedded nanoparticles to include inexpensive copper, and began field trials in various African communities and Haiti. They found that even with highly contaminated water, with their silver and copper impregnated paper, they achieved 99.9% purity. Bacteria levels were comparable to U.S. drinking water.
Dr. Dankovich has formed a non profit, pAge Drinking Paper. The product is essentially a book made of pages embedded with silver nanoparticles. Water safety information is printed in English , and the language where the filter is to be used. Each page can be removed and installed into a special holding device in which water is poured through and filtered. Amazingly, one page can filter up to 100 liters of water. and a book can filter one person’s water needs for four years!
Work continues on developing the product, and scaling .up from a research project to a manufactured product. Cool chemistry reaching out to the millions of contaminated water consumers world wide. If you want to find out more on this product click on the link for more details:
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From an article by Randy Christensen and Elaine MacDonald, Nov/Dec 2015, On the Level, Water Canada. Canadian water guidelines are weaker than those in other jurisdictions. Although having an apparent abundance of fresh water, Canada has considerable quality and quantity concerns. These concerns suggest too little is being done to protect the health and well being of Canadians. Our federal and provincial governments determine the level of allowable contamination in drinking water, known as the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality
The authors did a study (Waterproof Standards 2014), in which they found Canadian guidelines are weaker than those in the USA,the EU,and Australia…and are at risk of becoming weaker. There is also evidence that Canada has no standards for some substances, where others do. Of great concern is the Federal Provincial Territorial Committee on Drinking Water (CWD) has proposed doubling the allowable level for chromium. Cr-III is an essential nutrient…but Cr-VI is a known human carcinogen and is considered extremely toxic. Cr-VI is the contamination activist Erin Brockovitch exposed, as portrayed by Julie Roberts in the movie. The CWD’s proposal will put us out of step with our international peers and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Herbicide 2-4-D has also been detected frequently in surface water across Canada, and is associated with damage to the nervous system, liver and kidneys…and is considered a possible human carcinogen. Other countries have a standard 1.5 to 3 times stronger than the Canadian standard. Canada has no limit for Styrene, another possible human carcinogen, while the USA, Australia, and the WHO have set limits.
Precedent for better protection of Canada’s drinking water exists. We can do better , but our governments must must find the will to defend public health and protect Canada’s drinking water.
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