Dear future Prime Minister

Here's how to solve our most urgent environmental problems

The Issue

Fresh Water

Our Advice
"Don’t Go With the Flow"

What Government Should Do
Our country’s wealth of water informs the way we think of our landscape and ourselves. Our relative good fortune, however, doesn’t mean we can’t do a better job of stewarding one of our most precious natural resources. But the jurisdictional tangle between federal and provincial responsibility for fresh water is often used as an excuse for lack of government leadership. “It’s important to recognize that it’s a shared responsibility,” says WWF’s Maas. And because water basins—a water system’s connected area—don’t neatly confine themselves to provincial, or even national, boundaries, there’s room for you to step in and lead, working with the provinces and the United States, on issues of stewardship and conservation. “In terms of the five major basins in Canada…[the federal government] could really coordinate and complement what’s happening at the local and provincial level…and invest in the science and monitoring,” says Maas. He points to a need for increasing funding for scientists to supervise and protect the health of our watersheds and develop models to track how climate change will affect regions like the Great Lakes (and how to prevent it). A federal water information service, RésEau, already exists, but it needs to be strengthened and made more accessible. Other solutions are less glamorous, but still important, such as funding municipalities to repair and maintain their water infrastructure. “We’re using energy and chemicals and land to treat water, and in some cases, up to 30 percent leaks out through municipal pipes before it gets to our houses,” says Maas. A federal water efficiency act, similar to what already exists for energy efficiency, could further reduce water use by making mandatory water standards for appliances and getting rid of water-wasting toilets.

What Voters Can Do
Get mouthy: e-mail or call your MP’s office. Go to a local candidates’ meeting and ask where they stand on protecting H20 and pester them for real solutions, not just platitudes. For more ideas, the Gordon Water Group, a consortium of concerned scientists, recently published Changing the Flow: A Blueprint for Federal Action on Freshwater.