Written by Shanella Ramkissoon
A Diary in the Age of Water is set in Canada where existing places, events and politicians are twisted into a mixture of reality and fiction in a future setting of the 2040s. The book written by Nina Munteanu, limnologist1 for over 20 years, displays her passion and respect for water as she educates readers by defining water-related terms from limnology literature and using her own illustrations. This cautionary dystopian story is based on the underappreciation of water with real events; the premise is that Canada’s water is being mined by the United States and China via immense diversion projects for the rehydration of diminishing U.S. aquifers. In this tale, Canada is owned by the U.S. who is, in turn, owned by China. Toronto is under the control of the water management authority, CanadaCorp, who shuts off all house taps and has the authority to arrest residents who disobey the imposed water regulations.
In the shocking reality that one of the main characters, Lynna, faces, the book refers to a society we wish we never come to experience with daily water quotas (e.g. 30L/day/person) and having to pay for water by the litre (e.g. $20/L) at designated wTap locations. In our reality, water wars and shortages exist and water is traded on the stock market. Globally, substantial water body diversions, rain-making, wasteful usage and other manipulations also exist. Watersheds, groundwater and aquifers are also being bought. Corporations go to great lengths to commoditize and manage water for their economic gain.
Lynna, a limnologist herself, writes about her relationship with water and her mother, Una’s, relationship with water when it was abundant. She also writes about the water-deprived world her daughter, Hilde, is growing up in and these stories are all being read in a diary by a blue creature called Kyo. While the sci-fi aspect isn’t as dominant as the human fiction aspect, the way these worlds collide shows an uncanny connection that exists in the relationship amongst humans, water and the religious water keepers. Climate change, CanadaCorp and the actions of the evil Water Twins (with water instructing powers) played a large role in the fate of water. The aim of the Water Twins was to liberate water regardless of the consequences – and that they did.
If we as a society don’t wake up now, our future generations may have a negative outcome, like the water rules imposed by CanadaCorp. In Lynna’s world, at the supermarket, coffee, fresh fruit and vegetables disappear, cities sink as areas once filled with groundwater were replaced by air pockets and Niagara Falls runs dry. In that world, by legislation, freshwater protection is at a minimum and pristine lakes are allowed to be turned into tailing ponds. The enforced water quotas challenge the resourcefulness of citizens in their daily water usage and even force neighbours and friends to alert the authorities if one appears to harvest rainwater or have a vegetable garden on their property. If some of these outrageous incidences were to happen in the lifetime of future generations, it would be a great disbelief yet somewhat expected since economic gain usually takes precedence over environmental sustainability and basic human rights in many countries. In an interview with Munteanu, she said that she wishes to enlighten readers on the ill-conceived idea that water is just a commodity but should be respected and appreciated.
Overall, the occurrences in the Age of Water were like watching a natural disaster movie where the world was falling apart. However, it was the anthropogenic induced issues that had a domino effect of problems which no one was attempting to fix; using groundwater for economic gain was more important than the health and safety of the planet and its people. We can never forget that water is life! We must respect the water that we have been gifted and not take it for granted thinking that it will constantly be there to be used in our daily activities.
A Diary in the Age of Water should give you a wake-up call as it highlights our current underappreciation for water, its existence and our dependence on it in our daily lives. What will happen to us at the end of the Age of Water? We’d be damned if we do find out.
1Limnologists are scientists who study the physical, chemical, and biological properties of lakes, rivers, and streams.
Shanella Ramkissoon is passionate about marine conservation and environmental policy. She holds a Masters of Environment and Sustainability (MES) from Western University. Similarly, her undergraduate (BSc. Env.) degree is in Environmental Science with a major in Environment and Resource Management from the University of Guelph. In her spare time, she enjoys landscape photography, cooking, art projects and volunteering.