Water quality waning: expert
By Jeanette Stewart, The StarPhoenix October 26, 2010
An era of easy access to drinking water is coming to an end, says a leading world expert in global water.
“We’re really moving towards a new paradigm in water security,” said Howard Wheater, the new Canada Excellence Research Chair and professor at the University of Saskatchewan school of environment and sustainability.
Wheater is considered one of the world’s foremost experts of hydrology and sustainable water resource management and has contributed to the World Climate Research Program as well as the formation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization International Hydrological Program. He began his tenure at the U of S this month.
“Around the world, wherever I go, I see unsustainable use of water,” he said.
Wheater made a presentation Monday evening as part of the Frontiers in Science lecture series at the U of S, highlighting water issues from the developing world to the South Saskatchewan River. Competition for water resources is on the horizon, he says. International competition for water is also underscored by the damage done to existing fresh water supplies, he said.
River flows around the world are declining, including the South Saskatchewan, where the flow of water leaving Alberta for Saskatchewan has experienced a 15 per cent decrease in flow over 30 years. There are emerging issues of water quality and eutrophication — excess nutrients stimulating excessive plant growth — which has created some 13,000 square kilometres of algae bloom in Lake Winnipeg.
“Around the world we’re seeing degradation of water quality,” said Wheater.
The world’s population is expected to grow, which will create more demand for food. Environmental change also creates challenge, with urbanization and climate change producing uncertain effects on water supplies, he said. Around the world, some six billion people are expected to be situated in water-scarce areas by 2050.
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