Welcome to Canada! We’ve got almost a fifth of the world’s fresh water, yet many Canadian households don’t have access to it. The federal government considers it a minor issue, even boasting to international agencies that 100% of households in Canada have access to clean water. Sure, if you’re going by their official numbers that’s true, except their numbers are absolutely wrong. A fragmented system of regional notifications, has led to obfuscation of the true numbers. Data analysis we conducted of government clean water advisories marked “active”, show that the Federal government only counted 1 in 10 of these advisories. These are scattered through indigenous communities, as well as areas reporting to municipal governments.
The Canadian Government Only Monitors 10.7% of Advisories
The government’s numbers provided to international organizations and reality are far from the same. Officially, the Canadian government estimates that 82,400 people are without regular access to clean, and safe drinking water. As bad as that is, this number only includes 108 of the 1,001 active advisories we could find. This means less than 10.7% are being counted, and keep in mind we only found 1,001. Due to the fact that BC has no standard way of recording water issues, and there’s no data for the territories, this number is likely much higher.
Approximate Location of Active Water Advisories In Canada
Approximate location of water advisories that could be geocoded automatically. Source: Government of Canada, Provincial Governments, Municipal Records, Google Maps, and Better Dwelling.
BC Accounts For 84% of Total Advisories
It’s hard to fix what you don’t properly track, and this is painfully obvious when you look at clean water across Canada. Despite only having 13.5% of the population, BC had over 843 active advisories that could be found. The province accounts for 84.31% of all advisories we could find across Canada, which shows a remarkable lack of competence from the provincial government. Next in line was Ontario, with 91 (9%) of advisories. Followed by Saskatchewan, with 24 (2.3%) of advisories. One is too many, but the rest of country seems to be doing leaps and bounds better than BC.
Can BC please hand the keys to the legislature over to the next closest province? Date Source: Various municipalities, Government of Canada, and Better Dwelling Calculations.
How Bad Is This Water?
Sure water across Canada isn’t great. Cities like Toronto are pumping leaded water into hundreds of thousands of homes, and don’t even know which homes they’re doing it to. This is different however. The government warns the water subject to these advisories is not safe to cook, clean, brush your teeth, or even bathe your children in. They do say people impacted by this can take showers if they’re healthy adults, but there’s evidence some of it can’t even be used for that.
Why Isn’t The Government Doing Anything?
For context, in May of 2000 a community a few hours from Toronto called Walkerton, had an advisory put on their water. The Canadian Government proceeded to throw all their resources at the issue, rallying around the community to correct the problem within 198 days. For some reason, the over 1000 advisories in the rest of Canada aren’t considered an issue. The Government of Canada has pledged to fix most of the problem by 2021 – in 5 years. It’s a part of a $4.5 billion dollar funding program designed to improve infrastructure in indigenous communities. That’s a wicked long timeline already, but there’s a good chance they won’t even begin to scratch the surface of the issue by then. Why do I think that? Because they’ve tried this before.
Between 1995 and 2008, the federal government’s Aboriginal Affairs department spent $3.5 billion to tackle the problem. Things have since gotten worse. Despite the seemingly large amount of money, they can’t even identify all of the regions that require their water treatment facilities to be fixed– nevermind actually fix them.
This isn’t a technical problem that the Government can’t figure out, it’s bulls**t politics getting in the way of actually helping fellow Canadians. Instead of tackling the problem, they fragmented and obfuscated data to make it look smaller than it is. This systematic approach to solving a problem by skewing the data might be fine when you miscalculate inflation, but it’s truly disgusting that we would rather have a positive data point than actually figure out where and how to tackle the issue of people not having clean water.
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With contributions from Stephen Punwasi.