AQUA and the Ottawa River

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and sees local-global connections everywhere.

I’ve been thinking about water again. And not just because last week’s temperatures of 32° with humidex of 43 made me want to jump into a lake, or because of this week’s forecast of rain.

Last week my family visited the renovated Canadian Museum of Nature, including its special AQUA multimedia exhibit – which, I’m sorry to say, was here only until September 6.

A group of about 30 of us, adults and kids, entered the first of three AQUA viewing areas. There, we were each invited to pick up a “raindrop”, a glowing blue light shaped like a drop of water, which we carried throughout the half-hour performance. After passing through a water “curtain”, we were presented with a mix of 360° film projections, music and narration, props and special effects. The exhibit’s messages were compelling, delivered heavily at times and joyfully at others: that water is essential for life, that it is at risk from pollution and overuse, that it is inequitably distributed, and that everyone has responsibility for it.

Actually, I came out feeling angry – that I had to explain to my 9-year-old why one child in the world dies every 8 seconds from lack of clean water, and that it’s taken years for the United Nations General Assembly to recognise water as a human right, which they did on July 28 this year. (Even then, 41 countries including Canada abstained from the vote.)

In Ottawa, we’re fortunate to have an excellent water system. Still, our water source is at risk: from municipal and industrial wastewater, stormwater and agricultural runoff, dams, and floodplain and shore development, according to the Ottawa Riverkeeper. The Ottawa Riverkeeper is inviting residents to sign a petition asking municipal and local leaders to make river management and protection a priority. And their Ottawa River Summit on August 27 brought together First Nations leaders, elected officials and municipal staff from Ontario and Québec to discuss the health and future of the Ottawa River watershed.

If you didn’t get to the AQUA exhibit, you can read about it online at, where you can also pledge to take on an action to reduce water consumption and preserve clean water.

And you can still visit the Museum of Nature’s new Water Gallery, a permanent exhibit with a wealth of information about water in the world and in Canada – what it contains, what lives in it, and how we use it. (You can book museum tickets online as well as purchase them at the museum; a friend also alerted us to the 2 for 1 admissions coupons available through Attractions Ontario.)

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