Wanderings – Water, water, almost everywhere

Like many people who live in a community which has municipal water and sewer services, I cringe when I see the bill.

When I read in the paper that the price for water and sewer services is going up, a little ball of anger forms.

You all know that ball of anger. The feeling in the pit of your stomach that ill-content forms – and no it’s not last night’s meatloaf talking. It is the little ball of anger that causes your mouth to open and spout off about government, money spending and other various perceptions of government waste.

Of course I form this opinion not having an inside-baseball view of water services, how plants operate, why water towers are needed, or the differences between Xeon water filters and reverse-osmosis something or other. I turn on the tap, I get water. Use the dishwasher, and the water cleans my dishes. Water goes into my house, and it leaves my house to the great unknown. That is the extent of my knowledge of water facilities. So really, who am I to judge if a system needs an upgrade or not? I am not an expert, nor do I play one on TV.

Back to that little ball of anger building from seeing my water bill going up. I don’t relish the thought of paying more money. I thought of relocating to the country, but given the cost of maintenance of a well and septic system, municipal supply doesn’t seem so bad. That plus the housing prices.

In the past two months there has been the “discovery” of the graves of more than 2,000 Indigenous children on land that was formerly residential schools. I used discovery in quotes because former students of said schools knew those graves were there; only now are we listening and acknowledging their existence. That little ball of anger formed in my stomach again.
Much has been said elsewhere about Canada’s legacy of residential schools and the attempt to wipe out an entire race of people. Journalists reporting on this do a far better job of contextualizing what has happened that I ever can, except to say that ball of anger has grown quite large.

In reading more about the residential schools, I stumbled across a person on Twitter named Jonny Bowhunter. Every day, Bowhunter posts to social media the number of long-term and short-term boil water advisories in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities in Canada.

At the time of writing this column, that number is 51 long-term and 25 short-term water advisories. That’s 76 communities without safe drinking water. The closest one is less than two hours away from where I live, near Belleville.

In 2015, the federal government promised to end all boil water advisories in FNMI communities by 2019. It is 2021 so that promise was clearly not kept.

We live in a rich nation, a “first world” nation. The fact that there are FNMI communities that, in some cases, have had boil water advisories for decades, disturbs me. Can you imagine having to boil your water, or being unable to use it for laundry or bathing for decades?

A couple of weeks ago, there was a boil water advisory in Ingleside and friends of mine were panicking about the advisory. That advisory lasted three days. Try 20 years!

Stepping off my “woke” coffee-fueled soapbox, I will close with this thought. If Canada is to live up to this perception of being a kind, compassionate country where no one is left behind, we must work harder. And that creates another – not so little – ball of anger in the pit of my stomach. We must do better.

All that said, when looking at how some people do not have access to clean drinking water – and haven’t for decades – the next time I open my water bill, there will be no cringing.

Originally published in the July 14, 2021 issue of The Morrisburg Leader.