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the Gauntlet

New World Water

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March 22 was World Water Day, and in case you missed out on the fun, it's not too late to be aware of water issues. It is fitting that we are concerned with water issues every day, since we require water on a daily basis to survive. The theme of this year's World Water Day was water and culture. Water has many varied uses in many cultures and religions worldwide, such as baptism and different forms of purification. We can easily forget how important water is and take it for granted when we can turn a tap anywhere in the city and find clean water in abundance. In developed nations like Canada, water is no longer a sacred element vital to our continued existence but a cheap commodity most of us waste every day whether we're aware of it or not.

Appreciating water is one of the easiest ways to learn respect for nature. Water is everywhere on our planet, in oceans, rivers, streams, rain, clouds, snow--but only 0.007 per cent of the water on Earth is available for human use. We are water creatures with water constituting 72 per cent of our body mass. Step into a cellular biology course and within the first few lectures you will suddenly understand there are thousands upon thousands of chemical and cellular reactions that require water to proceed and keep you alive. Any plant you might consume needed water to grow and feed you, and any animal you might consume also needed water and plants to feed it first.

Regardless of the comfortable water situation in many nations, 1 billion people around the world lack access to safe drinking water and consequently, water related diseases kill 14,000 people a day. It is estimated that 200 million hours a day are spent by women and female children walking up to six miles to access water that is usually polluted. Imagine needing to walk six miles instead of six steps just to turn on your kitchen tap.

The next time you use water contemplate these ideas for a moment and think about how you might be able to use a little less. Canadians use 350 litres of water a day, but should only need 20-40 litres for drinking and sanitation. Fixing leaks is one of the most important and easy things you can do. A tap that drips just 10 times per minute wastes 2,000 litres of water a year. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth can save 15 litres of water a minute. Think about taking shorter showers or installing a low-flow showerhead or low-flush toilet. You could also use rainwater to water gardens and lawns instead of sprinklers to water sidewalks.

Water pollution compounds the problem of obtaining clean water. Millions can easily be spent on cleaning water even though it would be more logical to prevent the contamination before it became a problem. For example, urban stormwater pollution can be a problem for the Bow River; 11.4 million kilograms of waste runs into the Bow from Calgary storm sewers every year. Water that disappears down Calgary storm drains is not filtered and runs directly into the Bow River where it can adversely affect future water quality and wildlife. Contamination can occur in a number of ways; washing your car in a driveway, putting pesticides or fertilizers on your lawn which then can be washed off, or skipping the middle man and pouring chemicals right into a storm drain.

Clearly there are countless ways to conserve and protect water supplies, but the most important way is to first respect and appreciate water so we are less inclined to take this essential resource for granted in the future.

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