Over half of young Canadians don’t know where their tap water comes from; yet, 90% of them continue to rely on a municipal water supply to survive.
While we may not know the basics about our water, studies show year after year that our most loved and treasured national resource is just that - water. But, our limited knowledge places limitations on our love for water. If we don’t know basic water facts, how can we expect to protect that which we do not understand?
Thanks to the RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Survey and Water Literacy at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, you can become water literate and release the limitations on your love. This is the first of two blog posts in this series.
The game is over and it’s 35 degrees outside. Sweaty and exhausted after a tough match, I find myself obsessing over one – single – thing: Water.
As I make my way home from the field, I tell myself to think about the shots on net and the plays we made; but after a long hot day, focus is in short supply. The adrenaline from the game fades and my legs are the first to go. Like weights attached to my ankles, they begin to drag me down. My head follows shortly after – how heavy it feels! I want to sit down – just for a moment – but know that will just make it worse. The eccrine sweat glands in overdrive have long since stopped perfusing and heatstroke is knocking on my forehead.
My heart begins to pound. Then the worst of it sets in: Those dreadful pasties and that persistent headache.
I see the long grey asphalt pathway before me and the feeling of panic seeps in. My water bottle is empty, yet I desperately shake out half a drop. I know what I need, but I don’t have a toonie on me and there’s still ground to cover. I’m walking in the middle of the Don Valley while the murky river tantalizes me. I must reach that beautiful, silver, magical tap or the Don River will be the end of me. Only a big glass of that beautifully crisp, clean, Canadian tap water can help me now.
That was me - without enough water - after a good old soccer game.
Like most people in Canada, I treasure our waterbodies and am grateful for them - particularly in times of thirst (like on a hot day) and play (like jumping into the lake after a big game). Yet, when we put our love for these treasured waterbodies aside, what are we left with? We must reflect and ask ourselves the hard questions: Do we really know the first thing about our waterbodies? If we don’t know anything about them, how can we protect them from harm?
According to RBC’s Water Attitudes Survey (2015), 56% of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 do not know the basic fact of where their drinking water comes from. Many do not know what a watershed is, let alone the name of the watershed that they live in. Young Canadians are also the most likely to think bottled water is safer than tap water (contrary to academic reports). They are also the most unlikely to protect their drinking water sources (RBC, 2015).
Despite a reluctance to make an educated judgement and protect water quality, young Canadians have the lowest confidence (and interest) in their tap water. As a young Canadian myself who studied at Queen’s University on Lake Ontario, I understand where this unfounded reluctance comes from, but I cannot accept it. Why? Because we are living in a world where data is increasingly expected to form the basis for our daily decisions.
Millions of dollars are spent on education each year to make us more intelligent beings, so why continue to perceive the state of our drinking water – our most treasured national resource – without considering the hard (and current) evidence? How can something so fundamental, so depended upon, so enjoyed, be so undervalued by young Canadians and go unprotected?
Let us start answering the above by reflecting upon the times when we don’t take it for granted - like when playing sports in hot weather. My thirst after that match was all-consuming and I must admit that I learned my lesson - I now double-up on water for each game. Unfortunately, it takes moments of severe thirst to realize just how fragile we are without access to clean water.
And while you are busy playing sports and drinking water, RBC’s Blue Water Project and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper are busy uncovering the limits to your love for water. The annual RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study presents evidence of the gaps in your water knowledge. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is now addressing these gaps with Water Literacy so that you can understand, protect, and love your water fully.
The bottomline is: We must be water literate in order to protect our waterways. Like I said before, we cannot protect what we do not understand.