Archive for the 'Water Facts and Figures' Category

Water Nation

Who do you think uses the most water in the world? Automatically, most of us here in Canada, as well as the rest of the world will look southward to our neighbor, the United States, which happens to be true. Who do you think comes in second? Canada. That is an answer must of us would not expect.

Water: Quietly overlooked.

Canada is a proactive nation when it comes to conservation. We try to drive less, we turn down our fire places and furnaces, we use energy-conserving light bulbs and many other activities, but one blaring aspect that we overlook is conserving water. The Vancouver public maintains an opinion that since it rains here in abundance, that freshwater is readily available in copious amounts. However, consider the fact that we receive a great deal of our freshwater from glacier run-off and we only receive 40 percent of rain water (the rest drains northward to inaccessible regions). We don’t have as much freshwater as you may think. Canada does have an abundance of fresh water, placing third in the world, but that does not mean that water will not be an issue now and in the near future. Even with the world’s third largest freshwater supply, there are currently water issues all over Canada. Most of Canada’s population is centered around the Great Lakes, which is currently having massive water issues. One in three Canadians live around the Great Lakes and water levels there are at a historic low. The conditions are worsening. Canada is having water issues, yet we keep using more and the population continues to boom.

As we have stated in some of our previous blogs, on average, each Canadian uses 335 litres of water, not just in a week, but every single day. That’s 2,345 in a week, 9,380 in a month and 112,560 in a year. Phew! Hold your breath. That’s 49,683,984,000 litres a year for British Columbia’s population alone. Even more mind-boggling is that Canadians as a whole use double the amount of freshwater than Europeans do. There’s more. Guess where water consumption is decreasing? The United States. Now take a guess who’s water consumption is increasing? Canada. Our water consumption has increased nearly 25 percent in the past decade alone and there are no signs of letting up. Think about it this way, we could be using 25,000,000,000 litres a year. If those Europeans can survive on 170 litres a day, than we can do it.

Check out this article from the Vancouver Sun. It is pretty eye-opening.

UPDATE: June 17-2008. Reader Chris Murphy lets us know about this..

How’s this for Canadian Water preservation:

Mining companies get big subsides on the back of Canadian fresh water.

Graphical Representation of Fresh Water Scarcity

Here is a great graph from Circle of Blue that highlights Elyse’s earlier post on the minimal amounts of fresh water left on the planet, and helps give a visual to explain why a shortage is imminent despite all of the blue on a globe. Be sure to check out the rest of Circle of Blue as they are a valuable resource for international water news.

Water – Nature’s Abundant Gift?

Water is a mysterious but crucial substance.  Its origins and properties still evoke debate, despite its existence by some accounts dating back 3.8 Billion years.  Its forms alone are worthy of investigation. Water is the only substance whose solid form is less dense than its liquid, carrying tremendous implications for aquatic life.  In any of its forms, it can not be created, destroyed, nor leave the earth.  As such, it exists in a closed cycle known as the hydrosphere.  In the hydrological cycle, water circles through the earths system of reservoirs.  These reservoirs are numerous and well known, including: atmosphere (clouds and rain), oceans, lakes, rivers, ground water, icecaps, saturated soil and subterranean aquifers.  The water moves between these various reservoirs through the process of evapotranspiration, a name used to encompass the processes of evaporation (from oceans), sublimation (from lakes/rivers) and transpiration (from vegetation).

Figure 1. The hydrological cycle. (Trenberth et al. 2006a).

Between the numerous reservoirs, just how much water exists on the earth is a difficult number to determine.  It is impossible to know exactly.  Water trapped below the surface and that locked in ice caps and perma frost can never be measured exactly.  One of the best known estimates comes from Igor Shikloanov from the State Hydrological Institute in St. Petersburg.  His self admittedly crude estimate hits the 1.4 billion cubic km mark.  However, this huge number is misleading if not understood.  To represent that amount that is available for human consumption, more than 97% must be removed because ocean water is too salty to drink or use for irrigation.  A remaining 2.5% , or about 35 million cubic km is found in a freshwater state.  Unfortunately, this figure too requires further reduction.  At any one time, a small percent of the total is in the form of rain, clouds, fog or tied up in the biosphere.  An even more noteworthy chunk occupies 75% of the small freshwater total, locked and unusable in polar ice caps and tundra snow cover. Freshwater lakes and rivers, the renewable source we are concerned about preserving is a mere 90 000 cubic kilometers (a mere .26% of an already small 2.5% source).

A mere 0.26 percent of the water on Earth is drinkable.

Marg De Villers, author of award winning Water, creates a vivid image to make the numbers more manageable.  If all the worlds water was to be held in a 5L container, the usable freshwater source would occupy only a teaspoon.

When we know what we are working with, the need for conservation and proper management becomes overwhelmingly apparent.


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