In this age of endless easy petitions and staged town halls, surely we've reached the tipping point for public consultation and policy input. Rule makers want our opinion about stopping bottled water, burying nuclear waste, tar sands pipelines, micro-plastics, water shut offs, boil water advisories, nutrient overload, and the list goes on. But rather than being consulted by the rule makers, what if we organized better ways to set the rules ourselves?
Great Lakes Commons co-hosted a Water Summit in Flint this fall as part of a union of water organizations challenging Nestlé on its water bottling and calling an end the tap water crises in Flint, Detroit, and Indigenous nations. GLC hosted a workshop called "The Colonial Enclosure of Water" in the Great Lakes that showed several examples of how to re-centre Indigenous claims, perspectives, and rules for water governance.
What about the social bonds we have with water? Are we a good friend to water? Since we are in a relationship with water, what indicators do we have for measuring the quality of this relationship?
Whether we acknowledge it yet or not, we live in a world built on relationships. The environment is not a collection of resources. Environmental health is not a computation of biodiversity (the number of species) and elemental exchanges (water, air, soil, sunlight). What mainstream society has labelled ‘the environment’ is an illusion of separation. We are the environment.
Water takings have been occurring for over 100 years, with the first bottling permit established in 1912. In recent decades a surge in demand has allowed for an expansion in commercial water extractions throughout Canada – specifically centered in Southern Ontario and British Columbia.
Alongside this surge, the amount of water taken daily has also increased to a staggering rate at multiple plants; i.e. in 2011 Nestle applied for a permit to take 3.6 million litres per day for bottling purposes. This is nearly the size of 1.5 olympic-sized swimming pools of water being extracted everyday.