By guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is currently trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.img_0634

World Water Day, March 22, got me thinking more about water. In Ottawa, a coalition of organizations called Sanitation and Water Action Network (SWAN) Canada delivered petitions written on toilet seats to Parliament Hill, to draw attention to Canada’s role in addressing the global water crisis. Meanwhile, recent media reports have highlighted the unacceptable quality of water in many First Nations communities, sewage overflow runoff into the Ottawa River (more than 10 times in the last few weeks, according to the March 21 Ottawa Citizen), and the debate over bottled water.

Is there a connection among these water-related issues? Can I possibly influence any of them? The statistics can be overwhelming: 1.1 billion human beings without clean drinking water; 2.6 billion without sanitation; numerous species at risk. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Become informed

About where the water we consume comes from. The City of Ottawa’s website sets out how our water is managed and distributed. For a comprehensive perspective on the river system on which we rely, check out Ottawa Riverkeeper was established by citizens to monitor and protect the health of the Ottawa River, as no one agency or group has responsibility for this important water system.

About our water within a national and global context. Environment Canada, and Friends of the Earth Canada offer information about water resources and management in Canada. The UN’s World Water Day site has loads of information and links about global water issues. For more on the politics of water and water as a human right in the Canadian context, see the Council of Canadians’ site.

Consume thoughtfully

It’s easy to despair, especially when you consider that Canadians are among the highest water users in the world. Still, many small changes can add up. Environment Canada states that about 65% of indoor home water use occurs in bathrooms, with toilets being the greatest water user. In summer, half to three-quarters of all treated water is used on lawns ( Suggestions, and on-line tools, can be found on the City of Ottawa and Environment Canada websites, among others.

Take action

Here are some opportunities to raise awareness or make a difference in the quality of Ottawa’s water:

  • Become a member or volunteer for Ottawa Riverkeeper. Volunteers can get involved as “riverwatchers” who help monitor the health of the river, in public outreach, on scientific or other committees, or at events such as the annual Riverkeeper Triathlon. Contact Ottawa Riverkeeper at 613-321-1120 or
  • Send a World Water Day e-postcard to a friend.
  • Write to local or federal elected representatives with your concerns, and ask them to make water a priority.