What's Our Water Risk

The drought that continues to devastate California -- which grows most of the food eaten in the U-S -- should be a lesson for water-rich Canada. That's the powerful argument made in this Globe & Mail column by Dustin Garrick of McMaster University:

"California just announced its lowest Sierra Nevada snowpack in history for this time of year. Unlike a hurricane, which departs as suddenly as it appears, we now have a front row seat for the slow-moving disaster that is drought. We may feel at a safe distance, cradled by the Great Lakes – the world’s largest surface freshwater system – but Canadians are not immune from the impacts of these droughts."

Read the article What the California drought means for Canadians and consider whether we're properly prepared for the looming "water risks."

Water celebrated at Guelph H20 Go Festival

Food & Water First was there!

GUELPH-The taps may be running again in many homes after frozen pipes cut off water for hundreds this winter, but that doesn't mean that Guelph is taking water for granted.

It was feted at the third annual H20 Go festival in downtown Guelph, Saturday, organized by the city and water activist group Wellington Water Watchers.

"Really it's just to make people aware of how precious water is in our community," said organizer Jennifer Gilks, city of Guelph water conservation program coordinator, at a booth in Old Quebec Street mall.

"It's turned out to be a really great event. It's raining but that's a good thing because it's world water day," she said. The event was timed to coincide with both world water day and Canada water week, which runs from March 16 to 22.

The third annual celebration featured a range of activities for kids, including games and face painting, displays from local non-profits centering on educating the public about water, and speakers on water, conservation and sustainability.

"We want people to know that we are on a groundwater-based aquifer so we need to protect and preserve it," Gilks.

"Guelph is one of the few municipalities in all of Canada that gets every drop of our water from the ground," she added.

Gilks said residents may not be aware of ways they can reduce their water usage.

"When we conserve our water we have more for future generations," she said.

"People can do all kinds of things; we have a variety of rebate programs from replacing your washing machine, to your toilet."

Fixing "silent leaks" can also go a long way.

"If your toilet is leaking it can fill a bathtub in a day very easily, and so all that water adds up," Gilks said.

Gilks said the recent frozen pipe problem in the city made many appreciate the resource.

"They realized after what it's like to not have water at all," she said.

Katy Falk, a volunteer with the non-profit Engineers Without Borders, ran a game where kids pretended to be countries around the world and made their own water filtration systems with different amounts of monopoly money.

"The main thing is the amount of money they get is reflective of how rich their country is," said Falk.

The game is designed to show how inequalities in the world impact water access.

"And they get to play in water," she added.

"They get their hands dirty and they get to see dirty water become clean, so that's pretty exciting."

Nearby kids waited patiently in line for face painting. In keeping with the conservationist theme, flower designs were a popular choice.

This year H20 Go partnered with the Guelph Eco-market, hosted by Emerge Guelph, a sustainability non-profit and Transition Guelph, a citizen's group aimed at strengthening community.

"Really anything that touches on energy, including water waste and transportation, we have them come out and hopefully sell some wares, present the programs and really show people where the resources are in Guelph," said Eco-market coordinator Steve Yessie.

Items for sale included "dryer balls" made out of wool to keep clothes from getting tangled and cut down dryer, and therefore electricity, costs.

Yessie said the two events "joined forces" this year because the issues are so interconnected.

"Sustainability is the name of the game," he said.

By May Warren
Punblished in the Guelph Mercury, Mar. 21, 2015

Crewson Pledges Food and Water First

Shelburne Free Press photo

It was fitting that one of our newest supporters took the Food & Water First Pledge along the banks of a river once threatened by the Highland Mega Quarry.

The federal Liberal candidate for Dufferin-Caledon, Ed Crewson, joined NDACT's Carl Cosack at the Pine River recently and joined the campaign to protect farmland and water.

Reporter Marni Walsh wrote this terrific piece in the Shelburne Free Press: Crewson Pledges Food & Water First

Millions of Acres Lost

In a November 2014 Ontario Farmer article by Alex Binkley, we read that almost 2.5  million acres of prime farmland (Class 1) went out of food production across Canada between 2001 and 2011.

The agri-food sector currently generates $34 billion a year in gross domestic product (GDP) and sustains 740,000 jobs – about one in every nine jobs across the province.  Over the past decade, even when other parts of Ontario’s economy experienced a downturn, Ontario’s agri-food sector has registered growth, at an average of about one per cent a year.

Only .5% of the land in Canada is comprised of prime farmland (Class 1) and 50% of that is located in Southern Ontario. But statistics show that in Ontario alone we are losing approximately 350 acres of farmland per day.

To put that into perspective;

• 350 acres of barley can produce 346,791 cases of beer

• 1 acre of land can feed one person for a year

• by the time a child turns one, 130,000 acres of farmland in Ontario will have been lost to development

Support NDACT in protecting our rare and non-renewable prime farmland.   Our politicians need to see that this is an important issue for Ontarians.  Take the Food and Water First pledge http://foodandwaterfirst.com/pledge/

Karren Wallace

Published in the Orangeville Citizen, Feb. 11, 2015

January 2015 Food & Water First Update

Happy Food&WaterFirst New Year!


While we didn’t have a thick white blanket for Christmas, it thankfully came soon after. That isn’t a welcomed arrival for many people, but some of us get comfort from that muffled crunch that boots on snow can make. It’s very much a familiar noise from happy winters past.  As an insulator, snow plays a valuable role in the seasonal cycle. It protects the soil from the harshest temperatures and supports rest and regeneration before the next growing season.

This is the International Year of Soils according to the UN. Just in time one would think, as soil is taking a beating all over the planet. There are a number of compelling YouTube videos on the subject. They tell about its critical importance, and also how soil has been neglected and depleted globally.  We’ve been treating soil like dirt so to speak and yet it cradles and cleans our water and grows our food.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will spend the next year focusing on the world's soils, and bringing attention to this resource that sustains all of us. As with farmland, once soil is gone, in many cases it’s gone for good. Self-restoration can take hundreds or thousands of years if possible at all given the many layers (soil horizons) beneath it that support its growth and health.  A sobering fact from the Ministry of Agriculture (2013) is that Ontario exports 11 billion in agricultural products, but imports 21 billion. That’s my response to those who go for long drives and see many kilometers of lovely farmland and soil and assume everything’s just great. Those aren’t numbers that indicate self-sustainment. This New Year is showing many positive signs though and those statistics can get turned around. There are more and more campaigns that are focusing on protection of the fundamentals of life and there is so much to feel optimistic about.