"Watershed Connections" brochure from Conservation Ontario
Myth number 1: We have lots of water in Ontario - so there's nothing to worry about.
FACT: We are surrounded by water so we think we have an unlimited supply. But, in reality, we don't. The drinking water we take from lakes, rivers, streams and underground aquifers must always be replenished through an endless cycle of evaporation, rain and percolation. no new water is produced - it's just recycled year after year. When we take water from our sources faster than they can replenish themselves, we face shortages and experience water bans. If we continue to take more than nature can supply, we will face serious, long-term water supply problems. Almost one third of municipalities with water supply systems reported water shortages over the past ten years and this number is increasing. Pressures on our water supplies include drought, equipment problems and increased usage due to growing populations. Some municipalities are predicting serious water shortages by 2016. We need to be aware of how much water we are taking out of the system right now, so we have enough for later.
Myth number 2: Water is a natural resource so it should be free.
FACT: Water is free. But it costs a lot to pump, store, move, treat and take away wastewater for the almost nine million Ontario residents who rely on municipal systems. Ontario residents who use municipal water pay an average of $16 per month for this service, which studies show is not enough to cover the costs of operating, repairing, upgrading or expanding water treatment systems for growing populations. Furthermore, a 2005 report prepared by a provincially-appointed Water Strategy Expert Panel said Ontario's water and wastewater systems need $34 billion in new investments over the next 15 years, along with serious changes in the way they are organized and governed or public health could be at risk. Considering the average cell phone bill is $53 per month and the average cable TV bill is $45 per month, what is a fair price for water?
Myth number 3: We are already careful about conserving water.
FACT: because we think we have an abundance of fresh water and pay so little for it, most of us aren't aware of how much we actually use or how we can make better use of it. In fact, Canadians consume the second highest amount of water in the world and pay the least for it. We use more than twice as much water per person, per day than people in European nations, like France, and yet we pay a quarter of the price. Compared to Germany, we pay almost one seventh the price. The good news is that we can easily cut our water use in half by repairing leaking faucets, retrofitting toilets and showerheads, using efficient appliances and making a few small changes in our habits, such as washing our cars and watering our lawns less, and washing only full loads of laundry and dishes. Most of us won't even notice the difference, but our water systems will.
Myth number 4: We don't have to protect sources of water, since we already treat water and make it clean enough to drink.
FACT: Although we treat water through municipal systems, it's still important to protect it at the source. Water treatment systems do not remove all contaminants from water, particularly chemicals. We also have to consider the more than two million residents in Ontario who do not have access to municipal water and who draw their drinking water directly from untreated ground water sources. While it's cheaper to protect water in the first place, rather than having to clean it up later, it's not just a matter of money.. Sometimes contamination problems can develop that are impossible to correct, which means some water supply sources have to be shut down. Water treatment is just one aspect of a "multi-barrier approach" used to protect drinking water. Other aspects include preventing contamination of source water, using adequate distribution systems, testing water and training water managers.
Conservation Authorities are local, science-based environmental organizations that manage Ontario's natural resources on a watershed basis together with landowners, government and other partners.
Working together to ensure more resiliency accross Ontario's watersheds
Conservation Ontario represents Ontario's 36 Conservation Authorities, which are community-based management agencies mandated to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario's water, land and natural habitats through programs that balance human, environmental and economic needs.
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.