"A Water Conservation Strategy for British Columbia" was developed by a working group chaired by Prad Khare. The Strategy will contribute to a sustained and healthy resource and provide a common framework for water management activities throughout the province by advancing water as a valuable resource which must be utilized efficiently, wisely and cost-effectively to sustain a high quality of social, environmental and economic well-being, for now and in the future.
In 1992, co-authored papers by Tom Heath and Kim Stephens and by Ted van der Gulik (left) and Kim Stephens were published as an integrated magazine article. "Although there is a perception that BC is water-rich, the reality is that we are often seasonally water-short (mainly because of storage limitations) during the period when water demand is heaviest due to lawn and garden irrigation," wrote the authors in their opening paragraph.
“In other regions, notably California, they think of droughts in terms of number of years. In the Georgia Basin (Southwest BC), we measure droughts in terms of number of months. As we have increasingly experienced in recent decades, three months versus either four or five months of essentially rain-free weather makes a material difference from a water supply perspective," stated Kim Stephens.
"In British Columbia, climate models show a province that gets wetter as it gets hotter," wrote Pauline Holdsworth. "Overall precipitation is expected to increase by six per cent in B.C. by the middle of the century, but it will be unevenly distributed throughout the year. As winters get warmer but wetter, some B.C. rivers may change from being primarily snow-fed to primarily rain-fed. Water that falls as rain will get flushed through river systems, instead of being saved for summer as snowpack.
Scientists like UBC's Dan Moore know that glaciers are melting as the climate warms; that much is clear. They also know that climate change will change the movement and distribution of water in glacial-fed areas, which is most of British Columbia. Because of this, glaciers play a significant role in keeping the province's hydroelectric system running. In a stable climate, glaciers "recharge" each winter when they accumulate more snow and ice.
On a positive note, Kim Stephens said the water issue is gaining a prominence in the public’s mind which it has never had. “People in general have not appreciated how vulnerable we’ve always been. They’re beginning to see how essential it is,” he said. Stephens advises the public to stay positive and not succumb to a negative state of mind. “Drought is not the end of the world. Australia survived a seven-year drought. People get through it,” he said.
Implementing water efficiency measures in planning policy could help save Australia billions of dollars, improve water resilience and help reduce the emissions of housing stock. According to Dr Peter Coombes, most states are aware of the findings, but are not motivated to implement such a scheme. “No one analyses the whole system together; it’s partial accounting,” he said.
Greg Moore, Chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional Board said that Metro Vancouver will be reviewing what went right and wrong during the water restrictions this summer. Moore said one of the issues they will be reviewing is why there was no real change in water consumption when Metro want from Stage 1 to Stage 2 water restrictions earlier this summer, one of the factors that led to the Stage 3 restrictions.
The ‘new normal’ in British Columbia is floods and droughts. What is changing is how and when water arrives. “After a period of relative hydro-climatic stability, changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere have resulted in the acceleration of the global hydrologic cycle with huge implications for every region of the world and every sector of the global economy,” states Bob Sandford.
"The Province is urging water users to take action to conserve and manage water according to the drought levels in their regions. The Guide helps communities in the development or revision of water conservation plans. Using the guide will also help ensure a community’s water conservation plan meets the requirements to be eligible for drinking water infrastructure funding from the Province," wrote Liam Edwards.
“Because we’ve been making adjustments and we’ve been reducing our water consumption, not watering our lawns or washing our cars and such, and using less water at home, it looks like hopefully we’ll be able to avoid the Stage 4 restrictions,” said Mayor Darrell Mussatto, Metro Vancouver Utilities Committee chair. “But indeed, we have to stay strong and continue to respect Stage 3, and that will happen probably right through until the end of September.”
Although Summerland’s reservoirs were not in distress, the District took proactive measures in late August to ensure the community's water supply is not depleted. “We want residents and businesses to understand the seriousness of the water situation in the Okanagan. Everyone needs to work together to do their part and make a conscious effort to voluntarily reduce their water consumption," said Mayor Peter Waterman.