British Columbians recognize that our communities and the water we depend on are vulnerable.
New research shows that more than half of us fear a looming water crisis, and 75 per cent are concerned about pollution or drinking water contamination.
For many, water crises are already a reality of daily life. Residents of a North Okanagan township and the Splatsin haven’t been able to drink their local tap water for four years, and the problem is ongoing.
Hullcar Aquifer near Spallumcheen is the drinking water source for these residents, and the aquifer is polluted with excessive nitrate. Harmful to human health, nitrate leached into groundwater through the application of liquid manure on the land over top of the aquifer, a practice used by industrial dairy farms in the area.
Talk about gross contamination.
Last August, the Province ordered a review of the Hullcar Aquifer, and an independent report made extensive recommendations for ending groundwater pollution through improved agricultural practices. Yet, almost a full rotation around the sun later, the practice of using liquid manure effluent on fields in the Hullcar Valley continues.
Unfortunately, drinking water contamination is not as uncommon as you might think. The Fraser, Comox and Cowichan Valleys all have recorded elevated nitrate levels in groundwater. What’s worse, a report recently released by the province shows that one in five aquifers are considered stressed. Aquifers are a common source of drinking water for British Columbians. So what should be done?
The solution is simple: clean, safe water should be a bigger priority for the Province of B.C. Despite concerns about dwindling water supplies, three in four British Columbians say the province’s water problems are actually a management and planning issue and not related to scarcity. And, a whopping 87 per cent think the situation is only going to get worse in the next 10 years if we don’t see more leadership.
Another part of the solution is recognizing Indigenous governance of water. In the Hullcar Valley, the Splatsin are the Yucwmenlucwu, or “caretakers of the land.” Splatsin has entered an agreement with the Province regarding water quality in the valley and governance of the water, a step forward in the process of implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
B.C. communities shouldn’t have to fear a water crisis, like the loss of access to safe drinking water experienced today in the Hullcar Valley. The tools are there in the Water Sustainability Act for the Province of B.C. to prevent drinking water pollution and other water crises from leaching into watersheds, but our elected leaders have to start putting those tools to work.
Enough is enough.
Al Price, founder of Save Hullcar Aquifer Team (SHAT)
Kukpi7 Christian, Chief of the Splatsin