I love playing in it at Long Point, paddling down the Grand River, water fights in Lake Huron, looking out over Lake Ontario from Cherry Beach, and sledding down a hill during the winter.

I love looking out over the farm fields of Brant and Norfolk Counties knowing I’m going to have the chance to eat fresh fruits and vegetables soon because of the water helping them grow.

I love drinking fresh clean water from a spring or well and, yes, even drinking Brantford water from the tap. The thought that 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water is good news to me. The bad news is that of the water covering Earth, only 2.5% is fresh water, and of that 2.5%, less than half is accessible for direct human use.

According to Natural Resources Canada, Canada has about 9% of the world’s renewable water supply for only 0.5% of the world’s population. Here in Southwestern Ontario, we are fortunate that most of us have easy access to water we can drink. According to water.org, 884 million people do not have safe access to a safe water supply. That’s about 1 in 8 people in the world. In Brantford, we draw water from the Grand River, treat it, and then it makes its way to us in our homes before going to another water treatment plant and being returned to the Grand for others to enjoy.

Here in Brant, our challenge is keeping the Grand clean and safe. While the Grand River Conservation Authority has done a fantastic job helping monitor and improve water quality, one concern we face immediately is from our neighbors up river. According to a recent article by Sean Allen in the Brant News, there have been 134 spills and discharges over the past two years that have threatened our water supply. This is an increase from 2003 to 2008 when the largest number of “incidents” was 48 in one year. These spills come from industrial or municipal operations as well as agriculture operations. Private sector operations can be charged and/or fined while municipalities do not get charged.

My first experience with these “incidents” was in the mid 90’s. I was kayaking along the Grand River with a friend at Big Bloop, south of Paris. We were trying different stunts we had seen others do when, after we both fell off our kayaks into the Grand, we came up out of the River with burning eyes. We quickly got on shore and back to the car where a call to the City water department confirmed contaminants were just being detected in the water. A city up river had dumped overflow into the Grand and not bothered to tell anyone.

Since then, a watershed notification agreement was established to help communities prepare for incidents. While there had been a decline in spills, there has been a serious spike in incidents in the past two years. The City has asked the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) for more to be done in preventing spills and the MOE is reportedly interested in meeting to discuss the issue.

This is only one issue facing our watershed. There are many issues just as there are many other watersheds but those are also stories for another day.

Today in Brant, there are many groups that need your help in some way to protect our water. Here are a few that you can contact if you want to get involved:

Brant Children’s Water Festival

Brant Waterways Foundation

Grand River Conservation Authority

Waterkeepers Canada

I love the easy access to water we enjoy here in Canada and especially here in my southwestern Ontario “backyard”. That’s why I’m an advocate for water.