It all comes back to water.
And it’s not an infinite source. Experts predict that by 2030 we could be facing a water deficit of 40%, meaning our current water use is robbing us of water use in the future.
While the amount of planetary water cannot be increased or decreased, we determine its availability through our actions.
Pollution makes water useless or costly to treat, while improper management empties aquifers and drains rivers and lakes. On the other hand, recycling and re-use make water more available.
Human activity is the greatest influence on water’s sustainability and water is not an isolated resource – its scarcity, health, location and treatment impact many other industries, making it vital that we understand the consequences of our actions.
The Municipal Infrastructure Deficit
A 2015 report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities reveals that most of our infrastructure was built between the 50s and 70s. Since that time, the municipal infrastructure deficit, or the cost of repairing and maintaining our infrastructure, has been increasing at a rapid rate.
In 2007, the deficit was estimated to be $123 billion. By 2065 it could be two thousand billion – or $2 trillion.
The 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card estimates that fixes to potable water assets alone will cost $207 billion.
Our aging infrastructure will soon be under additional strain according to forecasted population trends.
Right now, the global population sits at around 7.4 billion people.
Of those 7.4 billion people, about four billion live in cities – over 50% of the global population. In 2045, it is estimated that six billion people will live in cities. An additional two billion people in cities will place increased strain on infrastructure, forcing us to rethink our current management practices.
Multiple sources estimate that by 2050, our population will expand to approximately 9.3 billion people.
A bigger global population requires more resources, specifically water, food and energy.
Without a doubt, the most valuable of the resources is water. No water (or an unreliable source of water distribution) makes the production of food and energy impossible.
Water is an essential nutrient for all life. It has no substitute.
It’s easy to recognize the necessity of water to our individual survival – without water we’d die within a matter of days. Water is essential to bodily functions and there is nothing on earth that can replace its role in maintaining good health.
An RBC study from earlier this year reported that 45% of Canadians consider water to be the most important natural resource by far. It has unmeasurable economic value and perhaps even greater social value.
However, this “invisible utility” as John Moynier calls it, is not getting the attention it desperately needs and justly deserves.