Friday, May 28, 2010

Water Woes

This recent news item on the state of water on Aboriginal reserves caught my attention because I can certainly relate to it. I once lived in a northern Manitoba community that was on a "boil water" for much of the time I was there. There are times (particularly in the spring) where I know some communities will issue an advisory simply because of spring run off, a common thing that usually doesn't last all that long. Fort Smith is an examply of this and if I recall correctly the advisory lasted for perhaps a week. No big deal.

The situation I faced in northern Manitoba was much different. The water problems were brought on primarily due to changed water levels in the lake resulting from damming projects courtesy of Manitoba Hydro and an ageing water plant that couldn't keep up with demand.* I spent a good chunk of time and energy boiling my water in a big pot on the stove which sadly became routine. By the time winter rolled around (and we got a great deal of snow that year), I was so tired of using boiled water for my morning coffee that I resorted to boiling snow on occassion (being very careful to avoid yellow or other discoloured areas when collecting snow for my pot of course.) Other than being a pain in the butt, the water aggrevated my skin over time. I developed a couple rashes and it didn't do any favours for my psoriasis either.

I'm feel fortunate looking back that at least my house had pipes and a flush toilet. About half of the community didn't. In fact, most of the students I taught that year had their only exposure to flush toilets at either the school or the adjacent nursing station. For the most part their houses had honey buckets, foul contraptions I would use out of necessity when camping but not something I would want to have to deal with on a daily basis.

All this is to say that this whole issue is not just an Aboriginal issue, a white issue, a black issue or a purple issue or whatever issue certain political ideologues on either side of the spectrum try to make it out to be. This is quite simply a human rights issue and its high time it was dealt with.

*Its my understanding that in the meantime, a new water treatment plant was constructed, but it brings little comfort to me now when I think back on all I had to endure that year.


Anonymous said...

what northern manitoba community did you live in. mark is currently living in Shamattawa, which if pretty northern....

Way Way Up said...

I was more to the south and east of Shamattawa in S. Indian Lake. Shamattawa is part of the school board I was working for at the time though and I've worked with people that have been there.

Melodie said...

It always surprises me that Canada can have issues like that. It's sad (and embarrassing)that the small communities get forgotten about. People still live there, so they obviously deserve the same rights as anyone living in more populated areas.

I hope that that water system improves things for at least that community. I'm sure there are others who need help too.