Friday, August 30, 2013



Its 2013 and there are communities without running water. That is the first program in our third season of SAMAQAN: Water Stories.

When I heard about this story I went after it. The Winnipeg Free Press (WFP) developed the series and I have a friend, Alexandra Paul, who is a writer there. That is a great place to start I thought and with one email our team got connected to the key individuals who broke the story a few years ago.

The situation in northern Manitoba is considered to be not unlike conditions in so-called developing countries. So we traveled to the Island Lake region in northern Manitoba to gather our evidence of how the people cope with this reality.

Many reasons are cited for the lack of running water, not the least among them a bureaucratic nightmare on how to access enough public funding to fix the situation. And although people in Island Lake seem happy, saying they would not like to live anywhere else, the situation is difficult and challenging. If the children develop disease and there is an outbreak of some kind, the hazards are heavy with no water to wash your hands. A small cough can get easily out of hand.

It is particularly challenging for people with disabilities. One such man is Victor Harper. His condition causes him to go to the outhouse frequently. In the winter he has a slosh bucket, a pail he must empty nearly after each use. He, in his fifties, lives with his mother because his house burnt to the ground. There was no water to put out the house fire.

Not far away, Nora Whiteway heats up all the water she uses to clean up. They deliver water to a holding tank, a large plastic barrel where she gathers up pails full of water that she will use to wash her house and her children. She fills up a plastic tote, the kind we use to store things in, and she washes her two-year old son in it. The scene is a poignant one and the irony is not lost on the viewer who see’s a happy family washing and cleaning loved ones.

Joe Byrksa, WFP staff photographer, saw all of this on a photographic mission to the area. He couldn’t believe it and the image burned a lasting impression on him. He approached the editorial board of the WFP and soon a team was assigned to the story. “Can you imagine”, Joe exclaimed in disbelief, if someone in southern Manitoba woke up and the taps ran dry. What would happen?”

Indeed, what would happen if we could not enjoy water the way do, day after day, in a world that is almost all covered by the liquid gold? Watch our episodes beginning on September 4, 2013.

Go see what the WFP did in their coverage of this story.