Paint the town blue

You may be green, but can you be blue? That's how water campaigners challenged Whitehorse politicians on Monday night.

You may be green, but can you be blue? That’s how water campaigners challenged Whitehorse politicians on Monday night.

By banning bottled water in public facilities, promoting publicly owned tap water and “recognizing water as a human right,” Whitehorse could become one of Canada’s first “blue communities,” said Tory Russell, spokesperson for the Whitehorse chapter of the Council of Canadians.

In the leadup to the UN-sanctioned World Water Day on Sunday, the Council of Canadians has launched a nationwide campaign to render Canadian communities blue, many of which are “vulnerable” to water privatization, said Russell.

“Communities are lacking monies to keep their infrastructure up to good standard and there’s no national water strategy,” said Russell.

The federal Building Canada fund promotes “clean drinking water” across Canada—but also promotes the establishment of public-private partnerships, she said.

“When measured against comparable western jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom or Australia, Canada generally lags behind in the use of (public private partnerships),” reads a Building Canada backgrounder, noting that major projects such as the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island came about because of private and public investment.

“With privatization there’s no incentive to manage water efficiently and there’s no incentive to protect it from environmental harm; there’s an incentive to make more money,” said Russell.

Only a smattering of plastic bottles stand in the way of Whitehorse’s coveted no-bottled-water status.

On March 7, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities called on all Canadian towns and cities “to reduce the use of bottled water in their own facilities.”

“The intent of the resolution is to reduce reliance on a product that produces more waste, costs more and uses more energy than simple, dependable municipal tap water,” said Robert Fendrick, director of administrative services.

Whitehorse stopped providing personal-sized bottled water to city employees in 2007—but large-size bottled-water coolers continue to dot city facilities.

In 2008, the city went through 201 water cooler bottles at a total cost of $1,708.50.

Taps can’t keep water cold enough, says a city report.

“In some older city facilities there are no fountains and/or the tap flushing procedure does not work sufficiently to produce cold water in a timely fashion.”

City-owned recreation centres currently include bottled water in onsite vending machines.

That practice would continue, owing to a desire to “promote healthier drinks,” said Mayor Bev Buckway in interviews last week.

Tap water is already publicly owned, but Whitehorse would need to pass a resolution recognizing water as a human right.

Internationally, Canada has consistently opposed resolutions on the human right to water, a position the Council of Canadians calls “shameful.”

“When you say ‘water is a right,’ then does somebody in Africa who doesn’t have any water have a right to the water we have here?” asked councillor Dave Stockdale.

Better overseas water management, rather than bulk water exports, is a more likely scenario, said Russell.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read