Dawn of a Thirsty Century
By: Brendan Chan, Grade 10
Imagine yourself dying of dehydration. You have no way to quench your thirst…You keep walking hoping you’ll find a water source, but all you find are polluted areas with unsafe drinking water. So you keep walking knowing your very life is at stake. Finally, you find an area of clean water but as you get closer you realize that it belongs to a private water company. Disheartened and exhausted after your long walk, you give up. This is what happens to about 30,000 children who die of hunger, thirst, or of preventable diseases. All of this revolves around Earth’s precious fresh water.
Today’s problem is that we use too much freshwater to stay sustainable. With more water becoming polluted, our supply of fresh, clean water is decreasing. We currently have access to 0.08% of Earth’s freshwater, yet it’s estimated that our usage of water will increase by 40%.
With less freshwater, 3rd world countries suffer the most because they have very little access to clean water. Where there is availability; a price is attached because the water is owned privately by a company. Places in Africa have gone so far as to set up WMD’s which stands for Water Management Device. WMD’s manage the amount of water being used. Basically, you pay for your water, of which there is a consumption limit. Once you reach that limit, you can no longer get water from your tap. On a positive note, you’re saving water, but the downside is that a lot of people in Africa can’t afford to pay for water. So they go to polluted areas and eventually get sick. Some argue that this takes away their right to drink clean water, which should be free to the public since it’s necessary for the human body to survive. Sulyman Stellenboom, a community leader in Africa even calls the WMD the ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’. Think about it: these private companies are taking the water, cleaning it, and then selling it to make profit. As we all know, most people living in 3rd world countries aren’t rich and there is no way the majority of them could buy drinkable water.
Lucky for us, living in Canada, we are able to have clean tap water for FREE! Yet we still like to buy bottled water. Bottled water, which is owned by private companies such as Pepsi (Aquafina), Nestle, and Coke (Dsani) make money from us, by advertising that their water is fresher and cleaner than tap water. Tap water is the only thing that those corporations compete against. Through multi-billion dollar advertising, corporations expect our dependency on bottled water to grow, effectively reducing the amount of funding to keep our free tap water clean; this results in more privatization and means less free water for the public and many lives in 3rd world countries. Guess we’re not so lucky after all…we fell straight into this mess by drinking bottled water especially when tap water is equivalent minus all the chemicals in plastic bottles.
Now here at Windermere, we have a great opportunity to take one of the first steps in preventing privatization of water. This year, Pepsi’s contract with the school expires, which means we have the choice to sell their water next year or not. If we do not renew the contract with Pepsi, it would be the end of bottled water being sold at our school. This would show Pepsi that we don’t want to support what they’re doing to our water. Another advantage is that if the contract is not signed, we’ll have the opportunity to sell our own steel water bottles. The money coming from those sales could be used to improve our water fountains. Think about it, 1 bottle of Pepsi water costs about $1.75. A steel water bottle costs about $10. You would only need to fill your water bottle 5 times to get your money’s worth. Whereas, if you buy 5 plastic bottles of water you’ll eventually buy another one, which would take your total above $10, and you would be creating a lot more waste too.
Now if you think “No one else cares so why should we?” you’re wrong. Already Vancouver City Council has voted in favour of a recommendation to ban bottled water on city properties. Their goal is to hopefully eliminate bottled water altogether. However, this is only a recommendation. Once we take that first step, others will follow. First our school, then other Vancouver schools, and then maybe even all of Vancouver. So you see one small step yields bigger effects. Society just needs that first step to start the domino effect. So instead of a “Dawn of a Thirsty Century,” I really think that this is actually a “Dawn of a New Beginning.”