Cool, Clear Water

Canada has 20 per cent of the freshwater in the entire world. Most Canadians have grown up drinking and trusting tapwater. So the whole idea of not drinking tapwater only applied while we were travelling in foreign lands.

This does not mean that we have no concerns.

Just one per cent of the Great Lakes water is refreshed and replaced each year by snow melt and rain. Once they get tainted, it can take a very long time for the pollution levels to go down naturally. Take, for example, the tiny, non-biodegradable plastic beads called microplastics that have been showing up for years in great lakes water and soil samples. These come from cosmetic and cleaning products featuring them as microscopic “scrubbers,” and they present a genuine danger to our drinking water, our health and our marine diversity. Even if manufacturers stop using them immediately, they are now in the ecosystem and are very difficult to take back out.

Canadian tapwater has been fluoridated since the 1950s - a process that almost certainly fulfilled its original intention of reducing calories, but many naturopaths and alternative health doctors question the value of fluoride and even suggest that it may have some unhealthy effects.

Then, there are the questions about our water supply infrastructure."The recommendations from the Walkerton Inquiry gave us a very clear framework for evaluating each jurisdiction’s efforts to provide safe drinking water," author Randy Christensen said, following publication of 2015 Ecojustice study. "Those recommendations spell out exactly what it takes to properly monitor and protect drinking water, and yet some provinces and territories, as well as the federal government, still haven’t put them in place." The study graded Canadian Governments on water treatment, giving failing marks to BC, Alberta, the Northwest territories, the Yukon and Nunavut.

The National Post reported 20.5 million acute gastrointestinal illnesses occurring annually in Canada, and noted the public hue and cry for setting and implementing consistent drinking-water standards across the country.

Just across the border in Flint, Michigan, they are currently experiencing a major crisis when its drinking water turned out to be badly affect ted by lead contamination from aging pipes, which created a serious public health danger. Children who have been exposed to Flint drinking water could experience a range of health problems. And the water may have contributed to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed 10 people. There's nothing to say the same sort of problem couldn't happen on this side of the border. It's not that long ago that the water supply in the town of Walkerton, Ontario, was infected with e-coli bacteria from farm runoff in an adjacent water well that killed seven people and sickened thousands. Steps are being taken to protect our water supply and the Liberal Government has promised to address concerns about water on reserves across the country. The World Wildlife Federation is currently doing a study to determine the health of waterways across Canada.

And frankly, tap water in Canada is considered to be among the safest in the world. Bottled water creates its own serious ecological concerns, and most Canadians have been drinking tap water their whole lives with no ill effects. But we do need to be alert - to protect our infrastructure and protect ourselves. In most of the country it's completely safe to drink water from the tap - we just have to make sure it stays that way.