Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

The Myth of Abundance.

Friday, May 14th, 2010

The Myth of Abundance: Why Canada Doesn’t Have As Much Water As It Thinks

Dr. Romila Verma is a Research Associate with the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (www.cielap.org) and teaches Water Resource Management in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto.

People rarely associate Canada with water shortages. And why would they? Our country is fortunate to have much of the earth’s freshwater in the form of numerous lakes, rivers, glaciers and groundwater.  But is it time for a reality check? The water supply for the city of Toronto, drawn from the seemingly vast Lake Ontario, is hardly typical of the water situation across Canada. For example, when one considers the imminent water shortages faced by smaller communities in Southern Alberta, it becomes clear that there may be broader challenges on the horizon for Canada.

A recent study conducted for the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy analyzed the impact of daily rainfall and temperature on daily water demand in Toronto between the months of May and August.  The study found that regardless of changes in temperature and precipitation, daily water consumption never fell below 500 megalitres.  However, for every degree the temperature increased, an additional 13.79 megalitres of water were consumed every day.

Considered alongside rapid population growth and urbanization, aging infrastructure, and now climate change, this finding highlights the potential for substantial pressure on municipal water supplies in years to come.  While extensive research has been conducted on water pollution, wastewater treatment and aging infrastructure, less has been done to determine the impact of climate change on urban water availability and demand.  This is especially concerning given that an ever growing percentage of the Canadian population now live in urban areas.

Back in 1989, John E. Lewis authored an article for the Canadian Water Resources Association that examined the potential impacts of climate change on Canada’s water supply.  Lewis predicted that rising temperatures would lead to increased water loss via evaporation and transpiration.  The small projected increase in rainfall expected under some climate change models is unlikely to compensate for this water loss.   In Southern Ontario, there is evidence that Lewis’ predictions may be coming true, considering that summer lawn watering restrictions are now a fact of life here.  In Southern Alberta, there is already little doubt that municipal water supplies are shrinking. Share the Water, A 2009 report published by Ecojustice and WaterMatters, notes that some communities in the region may face substantial water shortages within a decade or less.

We need to begin thinking seriously about developing a comprehensive national water policy and governance model, while at the same time committing new funds toward enhancing public awareness, spearheading conservation initiatives and integrating water education into our schools. Most importantly, Canadians need to realize that while our water is envied by much of the world, it is ultimately a finite resource. Both professional management and a personal commitment to conservation will be necessary for it to last us into the future.


Greenbelt Protection for the Humber and Don River Valleys

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

“Proposed Greenbelt Expansion to Include Don and Humber River Valleys

26 February 2010

Ontario Government News”

“Don, Humber River Valleys to get Greenbelt Protection

27 February 2010

Toronto Star”

Ontario recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Greenbelt. To mark the occasion, the City of Toronto has applied for two of its major rivers, the Don and the Humber (including their valleys), to be added to the lands protected under the Greenbelt Plan. The Don and Humber river valleys are crucial to Ontario’s ecological integrity, as they comprise a watershed that connects the Greenbelt to the Great Lakes and the Oak Ridges Moraine. Toronto is applying for protection of the Don and Humber river valleys under a set of criteria established by the province in 2008, which are used to asses requests from municipalities to add unprotected lands to the Greenbelt Plan. Currently, only the Rouge River Valley is within the Greenbelt Plan boundary. Adding the Don and Humber would result in the incorporation of all of Toronto’s river systems into the Greenbelt Plan. The Don and Humber could be incorporated into the Greenbelt as early as the end of 2010.

As part of the Greenbelt, the river valleys would be protected from pollution and habitat loss caused by urban sprawl. Inclusion in the Greenbelt would also prevent municipal governments from reducing the level of environmental protection in the river valleys and create regulatory stability in the affected regions.

CIELAP has extensively researched Ontario’s Greenbelt, as well as similar regional conservation plans in other jurisdictions, in collaboration with the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. This month, CIELAP released an update of its 2008 Ontario’s Greenbelt in an International Context report, which argued that Ontario’s Greenbelt is currently the world’s strongest and most effective.  Greenbelts in general can provide multiple benefits, not only curbing sprawl, land degradation and pollution, but also encouraging agriculture, community-building and environmentally safe recreational activities. Greenbelts can benefit the economy of a region, as well as its environment. We applaud the success of the Greenbelt Plan, but also stress that urban natural features should be given similar protections, as they are vital to the environmental health and resilience of cities.

Article 1 link: http://www.news.ontario.ca/mah/en/2010/02/proposed-greenbelt-expansion-to-include-don-and-humber-river-valleys.html

Article 2 link: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/772423–don-humber-river-valleys-to-get-greenbelt-protection

CIELAP report link: http://cielap.org/pub/pub_internationalgreenbelt2010.php