Lead-tainted water: How to keep homes, schools, daycares and workplaces safe

We worked behind the scenes with dozens of journalists on “Tainted Water,” a year-long investigation into lead-contaminated drinking water in Canada. We were shocked by the results.

The journalists, co-ordinated by Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism, retrieved the results of municipal lead tests from 14 Canadian cities via Freedom of Information Act requests. They also collected water samples by knocking on doors and interviewed people who assumed their water was safe.

As the results poured in, any illusions we had about widespread compliance with lead safety standards for drinking water quickly evaporated. Read more

Water prices increasingly unaffordable for low-income households

Environmentalists and water economists have long argued that Canadian households have not conserved water in part because it is priced at excessively low levels.

Somewhat lost in the water-pricing discussion are the challenges that higher water rates present for low-income households. Over the past few decades, the prices charged by municipalities for residential water and wastewater services in many Canadian cities have increased much faster than increases in the rate of inflation. Read more

Fish kills and undrinkable water: here’s what to expect for the Murray Darling this summer

A grim summer is likely for the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin and the people, flora and fauna that rely on it. Having worked for sustainable management of these rivers for decades, I fear the coming months will be among the worst in history for Australia’s most important river system.

A farmer stands in the dry river bed of the Darling River in February this year. 

The 34 months from January 2017 to October 2019 were the driest on record in the basin. Low water inflows have led to dam levels lower than those seen in the devastating Millennium drought.

No relief is in sight. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting drier-than-average conditions for the second half of November and December. Across the summer, rainfall is also projected to be below average. Read more

As I write these lines, bushfires rage through the ancient forests of New South Wales and our cities are choked with smoke. The severity of these fires is fuelled by drought.

For this reason, the new exhibition Water at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art is a timely and necessary contribution to an important question in art: how to best give visual representation to climate change – something that until very recently has been an abstraction for most people?

It is impossible to separate Water from the politics of climate change. The relationship, however, between art, politics and our cultural institutions can be uneasy bedfellows. This exhibition asks important questions. What is the role of the institution? To care for our shared cultural heritage? To educate? To agitate for change? Read more

Great Lakes waters at risk from buried contaminants and new threats

Nickle Beach, Copper Harbor, Silver Bay. These places, all situated on the shores of the Laurentian Great Lakes, evoke the legacy of mining connected with the region.

People gather outside Flint, Mich., city hall in January 2016 to protest the governor’s handling of the city’s water crisis.

While mining operations for metal ores and their refining have all but ceased here, there are renewed concerns over the safety of our Great Lakes source waters. One only has to think back to the 2014 water crisis in Flint, Mich. that exposed more than 100,000 people to elevated lead levels or to more recent headlines over lead contamination in water distributed from Canadian taps. Read more