Canada has long prided itself on its abundance of
clean potable water. Our collective memories have been rather short,
especially in Saskatchewan. Good, potable water has not been easily available
to many. Underground aquifers have been the source of water for people
and livestock, and having the farm or village wells near livestock has
frequently created problems. When livestock concentrations were limited
to a few head in a pasture, manure problems were also limited.
Feedlot operations have become larger, and we now
see operations of many thousands of animals in small, congested areas,
with the consequence of large concentrated waste problems.
The development of industrial sites of intensive
animal production has been driven by motives of industrial efficiency
and corporate profits. In this single-minded value system, the needs
of environment and the experience of the animals has not been properly
Nor have the impacts on neighboring communities and
farm neighbor been given due regard. In a recent Saskatchewan Environment
assessment of a large scale hog operation, after complaints by neighbors
that they had been made ill by the foul air coming from the hog operation,
and had to be hospitalized, the judgment was that the operation did not
exceed occupational health and safety standards!
If toxic fumes such as hydrogen sulfide which foul
the air and hospitalize neighbors does not exceed current standards,
there is a real problem with those standards or with the people applying
the standards. This seems to be another example of industry being right
and people having no rights!
The issues of safe treatment and dispersal of animal
wastes has not been addressed. The Walkerton tragedy was the direct result
of unsafe spreading of cattle manure on open fields which then entered
wells used for municipal water supplies. Inadequate monitoring and treatment
of that contaminated water compounded the problem.
we have had the problem of North Battleford and a parasitic contamination
of the city's water supply,
and dozens of rural communities dealing with "boil water" orders
to prevent many more tragic situations.
The great increase in large corporate profits internationally
and nationally, and the concurrent conservative economic and social philosophy
that has brought about reduction of taxes for corporations and the wealthy,
and the downgrading of infrastructure supports by governments at all
levels, has lead to a frightening degradation of many services. The degradation
of municipal water services and safety inspections is one of the most
immediately life-threatening to many of us.
While the underlying problems are significant, Saskatchewan
also has some advantages not enjoyed by other parts of this country and
other parts of the world. Saskatchewan is relatively unindustrialized
and unpolluted, though the policies of the NDP government and of the
Saskatchewan Party are geared to bring us the worst of an expanded and
intensified livestock agri-industry without long-term protection of water
and other environmental concerns.
Saskatchewan needs a government with a long-term
vision for SOUND development of agriculture that looks to the economic
growth of Saskatchewan communities and not just the profits of large
corporations, a long-term vision that does not think big is always better,
a long- term vision that values the quality of air earth and water that
present and future generations of citizens will experience, a long-term
vision of sustainable policies that take us out of a panic, knee-jerk
response to crisis, and directs our planning to a general public understanding
and appreciation of sound ecological practices that live in harmony with
We used to hear about the incredible damage that
had been done to major European rivers by industrial and urban pollution.
Consider ONE policy change that has , by itself, resulted in a whole
chain of responses that have done much to clean up those river systems:
Users of public river water had to TAKE their water DOWNSTREAM from where
their waste water was discharged!
North Battleford had that system, but failed to take
measures to monitor the water effectively and to treat its wastes properly,
with the resulting problem. Now they plan to redo their system to take
their water upstream from where wastes enter the river. That may deal
with part of the problem on a short term, but it does little to influence
public thinking and public policy to ensure long-term environmentally
Sound, long-term vision policies will only come from
a government that believes in such values. In Saskatchewan it will only
come from a New Green Alliance government that places priority on quality
of human life depending on a quality environment, both of which will
support a quality and sustainable economy.
Check the links on this page to items that provide
further information and invite you to consider the issues of WATER as
a key human and environmental issue for today and tomorrow.