“Why isn’t every day Water Day?” – Peter Gleick, on Twitter
Canada Water Week, and World Water Day (March 22) have come and gone, and I hope you all took the opportunity to lift a long, cool glass and marvel at the wonder and privilege to have such a beautiful, precious thing flow freely from our taps. Nonetheless, this seems a good opportunity to celebrate progress in the year past, to look at where we’ve fallen behind, and to make plans for the future.
First, I want to apologize for the long blog-drought on Building Bridges. Over the past few months I’ve been taking time for family: the short illness and peaceful passing of my father. He had a great love for this blog, and I often thought of him while writing – to educate and entertain an intelligent, caring member of the public. In that spirit, I continue.
World Water Day was a time of celebration for the Okanagan. Our Okanagan Water Stewardship Council received a national award from the Council of the Federation (Canadian provincial and territorial governments) for Excellence in Water Stewardship.
The theme of 2013 was collaboration, and it was a joy to be recognized among the other great, collaborative projects happening around the country. The Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Project also got recognized for collaboration that week – with a write-up in Waters Next, a publication of Water Canada. Which all demonstrates the intense commitment of local folks and passionate people working away in all our government agencies – looking out for water in the Okanagan.
At the same time, there’s still a tremendous amount of things to do. Someone once asked me my vision of water sustainability, and I answered, “Water sustainability isn’t a place that you get to. The world is changing, much is unknown, and the important thing is to have people and processes in place to be ready.” This is also called “resilience.”
We need drought plans, and flood plans, we need good information, and good people to act on these things. Nothing is going to get less expensive; in fact, we’ll be drawn tighter and tighter as needs grow. What are our priorities? How do we triage? What is the best way to pay for these things? How do we engage the public? The Okanagan Water Stewardship Council developed a Sustainable Water Strategy to help answer these questions, but it takes long-term persistent effort to get to the answers.
It was interesting to sit in on a webinar this week on the RBC 2013 Canadian Water Attitudes survey. Bob Sandford called in for colour commentary from his hotel in Aqaba, where he was attending a Rosenberg Forum on water policy in arid and semi-arid lands. While the rest of the world is struggling to protect quality and supplies, the survey found that average Canadians are less engaged than three years ago. How do we recapture that sense of urgency, when there are so many other issues for the public to be concerned about?
My feeling is that we have a very strong, intelligent water community, and many of the answers will rely on getting better at this very basic level of communication. I was joking with Corinne Jackson, our Communication Director, that I am turning into a water communication zealot. She said, “Glad to have you on my team.”
Over the past four months, I have slowly been collecting materials and stories to share, and look forward to continuing our conversation about BC water and the Okanagan watershed. Please comment on stories you like, and email me with more ideas. It’s going to be a good year.