Water, water everywhere, and right now, some of it is not nice — and even unsafe to drink.
If you’re up Trepanier, you know what I mean. In the past week or so, our water has taken on its traditional spring colour – shades of murkiness that bans us from baths and prompts many of us into buying our drinking water (something our family does year-round). Right before I put this page to press, an alert came from the District of Peachland. We’re now under a water quality advisory, which is issued when turbidity of our source water goes above 1 NTU. And with our water treatment plant a good two years away from completion, it’s just something we have to deal with.
But what about the big picture? We’ve heard a lot lately about water quality, conservation, and the health of our watershed. March 22 was World Water Day, and on April 4, Peachland was host to a conference featuring guest speakers and watershed experts. It’s a big issue, and one that students at Peachland Elementary tackled head-on during their recent spring break.
“My grandma helped design the project, so we could look at how much water we actually use,” says Rosalee Bieksa. The grade 5 student, and several others encouraged fellow students to monitor their water use as part of their Water is Life Challenge.
“The first week, we recorded how much water we used, and then we looked at the total and tried to save more water the second week. I have a really big family, so the first week, we used 7,000 litres of water. But the second week, we used only 4,000 litres. I didn’t take as many baths – and I also stayed at camp, so that helped too.”
Fellow grade fiver Zoey Firth says leaving the tap off while brushing her teeth, and being careful not to leave water running too long when washing her hands, are two important tips.
“I realized how much water we actually use – even to make things like juice with the powder. You can just buy juice, without wasting water.”
Both girls say there’s a lot more adults can do to not only save water, but to advocate for its protection.
“If us kids can get into the habit of saving water, it’s easy for adults to do, too. And if we all do it, it’s better for our community,” Rosalee says.
“Water supports life itself. There’s no life without water, and this challenge made me realize that.”
It’s really encouraging to see these young Peachlanders recognize an issue that will, undoubtably, be of increasing importance as they grow into adults, says Lee Humphries. She’s the youth coordinator for the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA), a group of volunteers, many of whom have backgrounds in water and forestry management, among other areas.
“These kids are the future leaders of Peachland,” she says.
“I believe our experiences as children shape our behaviours as adults. And if we want to impact children to make a difference, we need to guide them to experiences that ignite passion in them, leave room for their voice, and encourage and applaud their leadership.”
Humphries says she was inspired not only by the kids’ dedication in plotting their water use (one child used only 70 litres of water a day, an achievement considering the average Canadian uses 329 litres a day), but also in the artwork they created. Using the theme “Water is Life”, posters, songs and poems were performed and displayed last week at the school.
It’s all very impressive, says Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin.
“Their awareness of the value of water as young people, and how to conserve and protect it, will become the norm in their lives as they grow into adulthood,” she says.
“I strongly believe it is the younger generation that is going to make a difference, and this is a great start.”
Building on this awareness and action is extremely important, says Joe Klein, the cofounder of the PWPA.
“We are so far, among the lucky ones to have the water we have, but our quality has been falling steadily and we want to preserve what we have. People have to get more involved. Talk to your representatives, talk to councillors. We have lots of scientific data that indicate we could be in for a rough ride in the next few years.”