Do you ever think about where your drinking water comes from?
Accessing Drinkable Water in Canada
In Canada we are fortunate. We have potable (drinkable) water that is generally easy to access. The majority of the population has access to running water in their homes. It is clean, generally free from pollutants and toxins and ready for drinking. That is not true in all communities. Many indigenous communities lack access to clean water. There are also other communities that depend on water sources and treatment systems that are unreliable. We are often told that Canada has 20% of the world’s fresh water supply. This number is misleading as it suggests that it is all renewable and available for our use. Less than half of it is a renewable resource and much of that is in sparsely populated areas or flows into Hudson’s Bay and the Arctic making it unavailable to most Canadians. We, nonetheless have greater access to fresh drinkable water than much of the world.
Climate Change and Access to Water
Access to drinking water is a challenge in many parts of the world. China for example has one fifth of the world population and only 7% of the world’s fresh water. My step-brother lives in southern California. The state is in the midst of a prolonged drought. Climate change only exacerbates water access challenges. In addition to the drought in California, we are seeing drier weather in British Columbia and Alberta, which is contributing to more and larger forest fires than have been the norm in recent decades. Brazil, South East Asia and Australia are also experiencing serious droughts. Droughts reduce the amount of accessible drinkable water since the reduced rain fall means less water to refill lakes, rivers and aquifers.
Desalinization in the World
With the world’s population continuing to grow and the impacts of climate change being felt in more places around the world, we need to look for solutions to improve access to water. One option being used in many coastal regions is desalinization of ocean water. There are plants operating around the world, including China and California. Desalinization is typically an energy-intensive process that will produce additional carbon emissions both from the desalinization process itself as well as the energy required to pump the desalinized water where it is needed. Desalinization is a process which removes the salt from seawater to make fresh water available for drinking and irrigation purposes.
It is also possible to desalinize water using solar energy. In fact the largest solar-powered desalinization plant in the world is currently under construction in Saudi Arabia. Kids who attend Ocean Week at Stem Camp this summer will have the opportunity to experiment with solar-powered desalinization on a smaller scale. They will learn how this process works and discuss the need for desalinization to provide drinkable water in parts of the world that lack access to fresh water.
I have been compensated for this series with no cost registrations for my kids who will be attending STEM Camp this summer.