Water means different things to different people. It has unique physical and chemical properties; you can freeze it, melt it, evaporate it, heat it and combine it. All life depends on water. It makes up two-thirds of the human body. A person can live without food for more than a month, but can live for only a few days without water. All living things, from the tiniest insect to the tallest tree, need water to survive. Canadians use an average of 343 litres of water each day. Only 10% of our home water supply is used in the kitchen and as drinking water. About 65% of indoor home water use occurs in our bathrooms, as toilets are the single greatest water user.

Because we undervalue this precious resource, we tend to overuse it and in fact, abuse it. The apparent abundance of water is deceptive, and the capacity of our lakes and rivers - and even of the oceans - to purify the wastes we dump into them is much more limited than we once thought. There is a price for it: billions of dollars to clean up or prevent pollution. It is becoming abundantly clear that water is not a free good. It has long been convenient to use lakes, rivers and oceans as receiving bodies for human and industrial wastes. While water is capable of diluting society's wastes to some degree, there are limits to what even the largest body of water can absorb. Many of our waterways are now overloaded with wastes. This problem can best be resolved by increased regulation and/or monitoring.

Groundwater is an essential and vital resource whose value is not well understood or appreciated. Groundwater exists everywhere under the surface of the land but concerns about water quality are usually focused on surface waters - our lakes, rivers and oceans. The less visible, but equally important, groundwater resources have received less public attention. In recent years, however, a number of events affecting groundwater quality have contributed to a heightened public awareness and concern about the importance and vulnerability of the resource. Even where we might not use it directly as drinking water, we must still protect groundwater, since it will carry contaminants and pollutants from the land into the lakes and rivers from which other people get a large percentage of their freshwater supply

As time goes on, more and more water users will compete for what remains the same finite supply. This implies increases in water efficiency and conservation and doing even more to restore its quality after use. Nor is conservation restricted to only the apparent uses of water; energy conservation also contributes to water conservation. Reduced consumption lessens the need for electric power generation, which outranks all other water uses.

Paying for accumulated deterioration and the years of neglect our water resources have suffered is very much a part of the challenge to conserve water for our own use and for future generations.