Plan of Action :: Links
While climate change is generally regarded as the most immediate environmental threat,
some experts argue that we are much closer to a world water crisis. In the world today,
600 million people already face water scarcity, and it is estimated that between 2.7 and
3.2 billion people may be living in water scarce or water stressed situations within the
next 20 years. Much of this threat is thought to be in third-world countries, but we are
already seeing water crises arise closer to home, such as the current drought the American
southwest is facing. A recent study has found that Lake Mead, the reservoir created by
the Hoover Dam, could dry up completely within 13 years.
The looming water crisis is in part caused by changing precipitation patterns resulting
from climate change, but increasing demand for and pollution of water by society are the main
driving forces. As the population and economy grow, the amount of fresh water required from
the environment increases, which first creates stress on available water from lakes and streams.
A growing population and economy also generate more waste and inevitably lead to greater degrees
of pollution in these same lakes and rivers from which water is drawn. In turn, increased
consumption and increased pollution of surface waters lead us to increase consumption of
groundwater to satisfy our demands. As a result, many aquifers are being rapidly depleted,
especially under cities, which have lower surface permeability. The problem is further exacerbated
by water loss from drainage basins in the form of exported bottled water and high water intensity crops.
One partial solution for water crises is the use of desalination plants that turn saltwater from the ocean into fresh water.
These plants require large amounts of power, however, which can further exacerbate the problem if the power is generated in ways
that will increase climate change. Furthermore, this solution does not provide a solution for inland regions facing water shortages.
Finally, the intakes for desalination plants disrupt aquatic life on the ocean floor, and cannot provide natural ecosystems with the
water resources needed to remain healthy. A truly sustainable approach to water will be centered around conservation, both in terms
of consumption and the way we treat our aquatic ecosystems.
U of T Scarborough has two goals with respect to water sustainability: to reduce the environmental impact of the campus resulting from water consumption, and to maintain the natural hydrology of the immediate campus area. To achieve the first goal, U of T Scarborough is committed to ensuring that the most water efficient measures are in place around campus. We also encourage all staff members to use ewers and tap water for meetings instead of bottled water, an initiative that also reduces waste. For the second goal, we install bioswales to collect water from our arrival courts, as well as generally ensuring that future development on campus directs as little stormwater runoff to sewers as possible.
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