Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canadians Can Learn From Thirsty Tel Aviv

Israel is a country with limited fresh water resources. Much (but certainly not all) of its water comes from the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan river and its tributaries. These flow into the Dead Sea (see picture,) the lowest point on earth, and the last stop for the Jordan. In November, I had a nice picnic on the side of a highway overlooking the Dead Sea and couldn't help but notice how obviously dried up it was: the result of both increased demand for water and a years long drought affecting the region. The origins of the water crisis in Israel is discussed here.

It seems that in parts of Israel, a country that seems to have always been conscious of its water use, some cities are beginning to feel pressure to kick up their water conservation measures. Take, for example, Tel Aviv. The efforts to save water in Tel Aviv not only include contests to see who can use the least water (I hope people don't stop bathing!) but have also recruited internationally known Israeli celebrities like Bar Rafaeli to help promote the municipality's efforts.

I have long been interested in issues relating to fresh water. I think Canada has a great deal to learn from countries like Israel that find themselves looking for innovative ways to save water. Canadians have long been fed the myth that Canada's borders encompass more fresh water than any other country on earth. This is only sort of true. Most of these huge water resources are non-renewable, too remote to be of any value, or frozen away in glaciers. The water we do have easy access to (for example the great lakes) is used up faster than it can be naturally renewed and is becoming increasingly impacted by pollution and other activities making it more difficult to access. Canada is the world's second largest per capita consumer of water (according to these outdated statistics.) Canadians need to wake up and realize that what we learned in grade school was not exactly right. We need to take care of our water and watch it closely. It is not unlimited.

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