Water, Water Everywhere but is it Safe to Drink?

April 13, 2012 | Tita

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Water surrounds us, so it’s easy to take for granted. If this was a typical spring and we hadn’t already destroyed our climate, it would likely be raining every other day right around now. For our health, we are encouraged to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, some say more. Even the ancient Chinese zodiac acknowledges the power of water – this is the Year of the Water Dragon, an auspicious occasion celebrated only once every 60 years.

A few weeks ago, our federal government encouraged us to celebrate Canada Water Week. Why celebrate water at all? Water gives us life and nourishes crops in the fields but it also nourishes our soul and provides aesthetic pleasure beyond compare (swimming up at the cottage? canoe ride anyone?). Increasingly, it is also at risk. What better way to learn how to preserve – and conserve water – than through awe-inspiring and informative books?

Here are some of my fav water books – some are for drooling over and inspiration, but others offer the cold hard facts we need to keep our water clean and clear for future generations. 
Allan Casey’s Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada is an ode to one of Canada’s greatest national assets – our fresh water lakes. More than 60% of the world’s lakes are in our beautiful country but increasingly, many of these lakes are threatened by acid rain, climate change and other human-caused destruction. Yes, Casey offers the historical and scientific information but he also gives us reason to believe...


For a more specific look at Ontario lakes, Wayne Grady offers us Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region. As Grady points out, ever since the early explorers, we’ve admired, explored and exploited these unique lakes. Our Great Lakes contain 95% of North America’s fresh water and yet we routinely pour poisonous wastes into them without hesitation. Home to many of Ontario’s core industries, it is easy to forget that the Great Lakes are also home, temporary or otherwise, to billions of migrating birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians – not to mention the source of our drinking water.

Bringing it even closer to home, Remembering the Don: A Rare Record of Earlier Times within the Don River Valley by Charles Sauriol conjures up my childhood memories of ‘day camping’ on a tributary of the Don, pretending along with my dog and my friends that we were miles away, living off the land like pioneers. No one has written more with more passion or intimate knowledge of the Don River Valley than Sauriol. When he wasn’t exploring, canoeing or hiking, he was lobbying to save the valley along with his colleagues in the Don Valley Conservation Association.


Ok, now you’re inspired, right?? Want to take action to defend one of our greatest resources? Next up then is HTO: Toronto's Water from Lake Iroquois to Lost Rivers to Low-flow Toilets by Wayne Reeves and Christina Palassio. Half a dozen major watersheds cut a network of ravines through our city. But Toronto has almost always mismanaged our water, from the decades-long transformation of the city's creeks into sewer sheds to the alteration of our waterfront. Recently, the ridiculous trend of hiding Toronto's water underground has been countered by citizen-led efforts to restore the city's surface water; this title documents the fight and paints a vision toward which we can all work. 

Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis by Jerry Yudelson offers lots of practical solutions for industry, businesses and ordinary citizens. Water conservation strategies are outlined but so are strategies for reusing grey water, retrofitting and reclamation systems. 

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation also produces a practical guide for homeowners – not only does the guide offer water conservation tips for your bathroom, kitchen and laundry room, but it also addresses outdoor water efficiency literally at the roots – use their guidelines and species lists to develop a landscape plan for your garden.

So celebrate water with a tall, cold one but remember that water is absolutely a limited resource and unfortunately, we can’t just find another planet if we pollute all our clean water. Drink it, swim in it, canoe in it and enjoy the view from the shore but conserve it too.