The slow and steady decline in federal water science and management capacity may negatively affect government’s ability to protect Canada’s freshwater resources, says the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW).

“What is most concerning is that just as Canadian water issues are escalating, the capacity of the federal government to address them is being eroded,” said FLOW member and WWF-Canada’s freshwater director, Tony Maas, on a report the group released today.

“The federal government has a constitutional responsibility to help address the growing health and environmental concerns facing Canadians and Canadian waters from coast to coast to coast. Water management is a shared responsibility in Canada and we need a strong signal from the federal government that it is willing to do its share.”

“From previous experience, we know that reduced government capacity can have severe impacts on water and health,” said Nancy Goucher, FLOW’s program manager. “Budget cuts and downloading in the 1990s were partially responsible for the 2001 Walkerton tragedy, where seven people died and 2,300 became ill after drinking contaminated municipal water. To this day, many Canadians still do not have safe drinking water.”

Report highlights:

  • Gaps in legislation leave many Canadians without safe drinking water–there are hundreds of drinking water advisories in affect across Canada at any given time and 73 per cent of First Nations water systems are at high or moderate risk of failing to produce safe drinking water.
  • Canada’s increasingly inadequate water science program leaves drinking water sources and ecosystems vulnerable to pollution. It will take another two decades to complete basic mapping of Canada’s major aquifers, posing undue health and security risks to communities from developments such as shale gas hydraulic fracturing.
  • Abandoning Canada’s Kyoto commitments on top of budget cuts to successful and cost-effective federal programs, undermine the few programs implemented to understand the impacts of climate change in Canadian communities.
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Image provided by FLOW. Courtesy of Aneurysm9 on Flickr.

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