Water, water everywhere?

The white sheet of ice on the west side of the Riverdale Bridge has marked the passage of winter. Thin frazil ice slowly spread out from south bank…

The white sheet of ice on the west side of the Riverdale Bridge has marked the passage of winter.

Thin frazil ice slowly spread out from south bank into a quieter eddy of the Yukon River in those first cold days of the fall.

As the temperature dropped, rounded pancake ice spinning and bumping in the current eventually jammed together.

By January an ice bridge linked the opposite shores.

The snow cover recorded the crossing of a coyote or two as the leads narrowed and moved further upstream towards the river’s bend.

Now all the cold’s effort has been undone. 

Over the last 10 days lengthening daylight hours with above zero temperatures helped along by overflow and the pressure from the disintegrating ice sheet above the bridge has eroded the ice piece by piece.

Now only the two-metre-thick, icicle-clad, shore-bound blocks remember the hold the ice once had on the river’s surface.

The clear rushing waters of the mighty Yukon River are back for all to see on their daily trek across the bridge.

Not that the river ever stopped pushing some 900 cubic metres of water a second under the bridge, we just couldn’t see it.

By Dawson City the average flow will have more than doubled to some 2,100 cubic metres per second.

It hard to imagine an impending continental water crisis with the incredibly abundant resource we have been gifted with here in the Yukon.

But US government estimates forecast water shortages in at least 36 of its 50 states within the next five years.

Declining snowpack, drought, the paving over of wetlands, increased evaporation due to rising temperatures, salt water infiltration of coastal freshwater aquifers are only some of the factors contributing to the declining availability of this vital resource.

Threatened regions “include the Midwest, where the Great Lakes are shrinking and upstate New York, where reservoir levels have fallen to record lows,” according to a Natural News service article by David Gutierrez.

“Georgia’s crisis has already arrived, and Florida’s is expected to hit soon.”

All this is occurring as the water consumption of our neighbour has reached a monumental 560 trillion litres of water annually for all purposes domestic and commercial.

This equals the equivalent of every drop of water in the Yukon River flowing past Dawson City for over two years and three months.

What going to happen?

“Unfortunately, there’s just not going to be any more cheap water,” according Randy Brown, utilities director for Pompano Beach, Fla.

More expensive water may not be a life and death issue for those residents in the wealthy corners of our planet, but for Africans, Asians and Latin Americans facing drastic water shortages it is a crucial concern.

The week before last the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva debated a resolution that would have recognized water as a basic human right.

The resolution called for the setting up of an international body to monitor the actions of individual countries on water use.

Canada, which has no national water policy, refused to give its assent.

“Canada failed to take up the challenge. Canadians would find it shocking to realize our role in this,” said Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians and a veteran of many water and international trade struggles, in an April 2 Toronto Star article by Linda Diebel.

The resolution “was a benchmark for the concept water is a right, not a commodity,” Barlow said, “adding claims that the resolution would have forced nations to export water to drought-plagued regions were ‘fantastical.’”

She also stated “that the resolution would have buttressed the argument that nobody should be able to expropriate water for financial profit.”

Should there be any question that water is a basic human right?