I grew up in a small city on the dry prairie of Canada. The water source for our city was Buffalo Pound Lake, some 30 kilometres north of town. However there was a problem with the water from the lake. In the 1930's and 1940's farmers dumped their excess fertiliser in the lake. This meant that rich crops of algae bloomed in the lake. For much of the spring, summer, and autumn, the lake would be green from the algae. During the late summer though, the algae would bloom and produce many seeds. The city's water filtration plant had to use extra chlorine to kill whatever came from our taps. The water from the lake became almost undrinkable because of the awful stench. Our shower water stank. We boiled water on the stove for drinking and cooking, hoping to remove some of the horrible smell. Eventually, the city put a heavy duty carbon filtration system in which made the water smell better. But for us during those weeks in August, we always wondered what was in the water we drank.
Then I moved to Vancouver. Vancouver is in the midst of a temperate rain forest. It rains on average 168 days a year. Water loving plants like moss and ferns love the climate there. Between November and March it is not unusual to go many days without seeing the sun. So I never really thought about water there.
Then I moved to Toronto. Toronto does get a fair amount of rain but it also gets much more sunshine then Vancouver. Toronto also happens to be situated along side one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Ontario. Again we were not so concerned about water usage there. There was so much water around us.
Sydney though is different. Yes we are surrounded by a lot of water. The beautiful inlets of the Tasman sea are everywhere. However, much of the water is sea water or brackish water and so is not fit to drink. Although normally we get more average rainfall per year than the city of London does, the past three years have been very dry. Little rain fell last autumn, last summer was the hottest on record, and this has been another very dry autumn. The reservoirs are now at just over 50% of their capacity and those levels are falling each week. Water restrictions begin this week. There may be water everywhere, but there is not much to drink.
Sydney is not alone in facing water crisis. Capetown, South Africa, actually talked about running out of water in early 2018. They were days away from going dry- a day they called Day Zero when all of the municipal water system would be turned off. But people began to cut their water usage and rains did come and now the reservoir there is back to a comfortable level.
People are very good at denying climate change. We have gone through droughts and heat waves before. Canada has hard winters before. North Queensland has had cyclones before. The US Midwest has had tornados before. But we are breaking weather extreme records more and more often. People talk about losing jobs because of the green economy (what of our coal miners in Australia, our oil workers in Canada). Yet how many billions of dollars are having to be spend on floods, fires, droughts, tornadoes, and cyclones. Despite the doubters, climate change is indeed real. We are paying now and for our use of fossil fuels and the bill is only going to get hire. Soon all of us may be crying out for water. The time to act is now, or we may all face our Day Zero. Blessings.
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