By Kuhl, Nick on February 12, 2018.
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The University of Lethbridge took some time this month to talk about water governance in Canada.
During one of their Prentice Institute Brown Bag lectures on Feb. 1, Maura Hanrahan, professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Lethbridge, discussed with interested students and members of the public the impact of Canada’s decentralized water governance system for residents across the country.
Touching on everything from the policy itself, to case studies, boil advisories and how the current system correlates with the United Nations declaration that recognized water as a human right.
“We have water injustice in Canada and water poverty,” explained Hanrahan. “But we’re such a rich country and we can do better than that. There’s no reason we couldn’t live up to the UN declaration that water is a human right.”
Starting her lecture, Hanrahan discussed the state of the current water governance system which she noted is one of the most decentralized policies in the world, before touching on the current model that sees Canada having no national standard to be enforced, meaning each province is responsible for their own water reserves.
This in turn sees many water responsibilities falling to junior governments with limited capacities, which means that many small, remote and indigenous communities across the country as a result, experience an array of water security challenges of different extremes.
“Reserves often aren’t given enough funding to reserve and maintain adequate water systems,” said Hanrahan. “There’s a big problem of underfunding, as well as the added problem that some places are too big and complex and are too hard for the municipality to manage.”
However, this isn’t the only problem with water across the province. As Hanrahan also took some time to speak on the fact that there is also a consistent problem of lack of education on this issue for many Canadians.
“Most of the time, people in Canada tend to think you turn on the tap and you can have as much water as you want – unless you live in rural remote communities or reserves.
“Most of the water in southern Canada is quite safe to drink and I think that’s why we kind of assume that we all have this access,” Hanrahan added.
Yet some places in the country see less knowledge and reckless use more than others.
Lethbridge sees some of the highest rate of water usage per person across the entire country. With the Prairie deserts sitting on the region’s doorstep, Hanrahan also says that using water at such high rates could be detrimental to lands in the future.
With low conservation rates, Hanrahan added Lethbridge and surrounding areas could look into better and less expensive ways to use lower volumes of water than their current treated water usage rate such as collecting rainwater and washing their cars in a facility rather than at home.
During her lecture, Hanrahan also took some time to discuss her studies on areas within Newfoundland and Labrador that see extended boil-water advisories as well as extremely tough water conditions throughout most of the year.
“Most water boil advisories last only a day or so in southern Alberta, however, in rural and remote places, there’s some that have been going on for almost 28 years,” she added.
Hanrahan is an Adjunct Professor to EPI and Grenfell’s Humanities Program, and an Associate Professor to Native American Studies Program >at the University of Lethbridge.
Hanrahan also involved herself with interdisciplinary work in water security and was happy to bring her knowledge on the issue of water governance in Canada to the forefront as well as offer some insights on current movements to help the issue during the most recent lecture with the Prentice Brown Bag Lecture Series.
“The federal department of Indigenous Affairs has been split, which is a good idea, and they are putting funding into more suitable infrastructure that’s happening and that’s a good thing to see.”
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