Safe drinking water is a right

Nightly Canadians are hearing the grim story coming from Flint, Mich., where a city of almost 100,000 people are being poisoned by their water.
The corrosive Flint River water has caused lead from ancient pipes to leach into the drinking water, causing extremely high concentrations of lead in 6,000-12,000 Flint residents—many of them children and teens.
Flint changed its source for drinking water in 2014.
Municipal governments in Canada and the U.S. are responsible for the quality of drinking water. In Canada, there are 160 drinking water advisories in 126 First Nation communities.
Those First Nations are dependent on the federal government for assistance to remedy those problems.
Water is a vital part of our day-to-day lives and we need it for drinking, sanitation, and household uses. Water is essential to our health and cultural, social, and economic well-being of communities.
The importance of the quality of water destined for human consumption is not a recent discovery. In his writings, Hippocrates (440-377 BC) stressed the essential role of water in maintaining health.
He even recommended that rain water be filtered and boiled before being used.
In Fort Frances, Emo, and Rainy River, municipal councils have been diligent in ensuring their communities have safe water. Water treatment plants have been built and upgraded while sewage treatment plants treating wastewater have been upgraded.
While 126 First Nations continue to boil water, many communities across Canada also are seeing the end-of-life of their water delivery systems.
In Canada, it’s estimated 29 percent of potable water assets in Canada are in fair, poor, or very poor condition, with a replacement cost of water systems pegged at $207 billion.
Water lines and sewer lines are not glamorous projects for municipal councils to spend money on. Yet those projects have the greatest impact on the lives and well-being of the residents of Canada.
The Trudeau government has promised significant infrastructure funding to towns and cities across Canada.
One might hope the infrastructure money being promised by the Trudeau government will priorize the replacement of existing water and sewer systems through renewal programs.
It won’t be as glamorous as a new convention centre in Thunder Bay or a new NHL arena in Calgary, but replacing Canada’s aging water and sewer infrastructure will have much longer benefit for Canadians.
It is hoped that setting a reasonable target of five years to remove all 126 First Nations’ communities from drinking water advisories also will be a priority for the infrastructure funding.
Safe, potable drinking water is a right of every resident of Canada. Let’s hope the federal government makes that a priority when it comes to spending infrastructure dollars.

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