Water is the essence of our body’s circulatory system and that of the planet’s. In our bodies, a loss of 10 percent of our fluids can be fatal. However, with an increase of 83 million people on the planet every year, water demand will continue to escalate unless we change our use of this precious substance. It is expected that in 15 years, 1.8 billion people will live in regions of severe water scarcity.
Today in coastal BC, a shortage of water seems unlikely. Our tap water tastes good and it is abundant and safe to drink. Unless you enjoy throwing money away, you need not buy bottled water. Whereas, the average adult drinks just 1.5 litres of water per day (including tea, juice and coffee), in BC we each use 490 litres per day, excluding the water used by industry and agriculture. Toilet flushing and bathing each account for 30 percent of our home use. BC residents use much more than the Canadian average (330 litres) and more than many other developed countries. In underground aquifers in Abbotsford and Langley, water levels are already dropping.
What can you do?
Take an interest in food security: Motivated by an appreciation for locally grown food, food security groups are forming throughout BC. Local government and citizens work together to support agriculture. It’s not easy, though. When a $40,000 acre of BC farmland can be worth a million dollars if zoning is changed to allow development, politicians are under pressure to look the other way and make the easy, short-term decision. To see how hot the issue has become, search “food security bc” on the Internet. Harold Steves of Richmond has campaigned for decades to save local farmland and he sees that we must begin acting like we may have to grow all our own food in the not too distant future, instead of relying on produce from California and Chile.
FarmFolk/CityFolk Society: Executive director Heather Pritchard supports local and organic farming and helps young people get into farming. www.ffcf.bc.ca
Support positive government initiatives: By 2020, the BC government plans to increase the province’s water efficiency by 33 percent (http://www.livingwatersmart.ca/book/ page 54). A BC government plan to meter and manage the province’s dwindling water supply has started up in the Okanagan and is coming to the Fraser Valley. “Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future” is a draft that is being considered for adoption by municipalities in the Lower Mainland; it includes protection of agricultural land. http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/strategy/Pages/default.aspx
Join the Council of Canadians: This inspiring and resourceful group urges governments and corporations to consider the long-term consequences for humans and the environment in matters of water, resources and more. www.canadians.org and www.wateronthetable.com
Choose a diet that is increasingly plant-based: Two-thirds of North America’s water is used to grow food; a plant-based diet uses significantly less water. Animal agriculture demands tremendous amounts of fresh water for animal feed. While requirements vary with location and irrigation, on average, it takes about 100 times more water to produce a pound of beef than a pound of wheat. A vegan’s supply of food requires less water for one year than a meat eater’s does for one month.
A plant-based diet helps prevents water pollution. Agriculture is the biggest polluter of North America’s water systems, exceeding the damage from sewage treatment plants, urban storm sewers and pollution from contaminants in air. Factory farms and their manure production (too much to return to distant farmland) lack sewage systems or treatment plants; they poisons rivers, taint the water with hormones and breed dangerous pathogens.
Your dietary choices can help protect against desertification; overgrazing is the world’s leading cause of desertification and it takes nature about 3,000 years to produce the six inches of topsoil needed for a crop, yet intensive farming causes us to lose farmable soil. When land is overgrazed, soil is compacted, losing its ability to absorb water. When heavy rains fall, the topsoil is carried away.
Vesanto Melina is a local dietitian and co-author of the new Becoming Vegan: Express Edition and Becoming Raw as well as theRaw Food Revolution Diet, Becoming Vegetarian, Raising Vegetarian Children and the Food Allergy Survival Guide. For personal consultations, phone 604-882-6782 or visit www.nutrispeak.com
1. Flow: www.flowthefilm.com
2. Becoming Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis
3. National Geographic, April 2010. Water: our Thirsty World