Canada ranks No.
2 among water-rich countries
TORONTO (CP) -- Canada ranks No.
2 after Finland in a newly
developed index that shows where the best and worst
water situations exist in the world.
Although Canada is considered
wealthy on the Water Poverty Index in terms of resources
and access to water, it scores poorly in a subcategory
on efficient use of water -- 19th from the bottom on
a list of 147 countries.
On the domestic front, well-watered lawns and frequent showers
and loads of laundry are taken for granted here. On
the industrial side, the culprit is manufacturing plants
that weren't designed to use water efficiently.
''That's partly because, I guess, up until now it hasn't been
a scarcity for us, for one thing. The other is that
in general in Canada, water is
cheap,'' William Cosgrove, vice-president of the World
Water Council, said in an interview from Paris.
''So we, for example, for domestic uses, consume 425 litres
per person per day, more or less. The U.S. is the absolute
worst on that. They're up around 680, but in countries
in Europe, it's something
around 250. And in the developing world, where water
is scarce and people are poor, they learn to get by
on three litres per capita per day.''
Cosgrove, who lives in Montreal, contributed
to the development of the index, compiled by Caroline
Sullivan and others at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
in Wallingford, England.
The index, which was released Wednesday, will be discussed
at the World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, in March,
where 10,000 government officials, water experts and
industry leaders will look for solutions to a world
In many developed countries, Sullivan said, ''manufacturing
plants and agriculture systems have been designed in
ways which are not really compatible with maximum efficiency
of water use.''
''They are using water relatively inefficiently vis a vis the
financial value of the outputs,'' she said from London.
Besides Finland and Canada, the water-rich countries rounding
out the top 10 are Iceland, Norway, Guyana, Suriname,
Austria, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.
The 10 countries at the bottom were Haiti, Niger, Ethiopia,
Eritrea, Malawi, Djibouti, Chad, Benin, Rwanda and Burundi.
Experts at the World Water Council, based in Marseilles, France, say that
20 per cent of the world's population in 30 countries
faced water shortages in the year 2000. They warn that
unless action is taken, the number of people living
under the threat of water scarcity will rise to 2.3
billion in 2025.
The index assigned a value of 20 points as the best score for
each of its five categories: resources, access, use,
environmental impact and capacity, which measures a
number of variables that define a country's ability
to manage its water system.
score was 78 points, followed by Canada at 77.7. The
United States was in 32nd
place with a score of 65. Last-place Haiti scored 35.
Cosgrove said Canadians who draw their water from the Great Lakes basin should
follow the European model.
In Europe ''they treat
the water better before they put it back, they recycle
it, they use less and use clean technology in their
manufacturing systems,'' he said.
''Those are the types of things that we're going to have to
start to do in that part of Canada and eventually
we should learn it in the whole of the country.''
He acknowledged water resources are already scarce in parts
of Saskatchewan and Alberta struck by
drought this summer.
''And so there's been talk about moving water from other basins
into that area in order to help the farmers who are
there,'' he said.
''I like to think that through education of our next generation
they're going to grow up being more aware of the value
of water in all of its applications.''
Cosgrove said the index confirms that countries that are very
poor also have very big water problems.
''It's a vicious circle for them. You need to have water for
drinking, for sanitation, for industrial production.'
Canadians have nine per cent of all the world's fresh water,
he said, and ''should thank God that they live in a
country that's relatively well endowed with water and
that we're wealthy enough to have access to it.''
'Hopefully they'll recognize that we have that blessing, that
'And think as Jimmy Carter just said in his acceptance address
for the Nobel Prize, it's time that those countries
that are over-wealthy, if you will, recognize the needs
of the rest of the world.''